Gary Clair


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Beginning in 1935 and held every year since then, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has staged more than 30,000 performances. The festival entertains in excess of twenty million attendees, making it one of the world’s most popular annual celebrations of the works of the legendary English dramatist and playwright: William Shakespeare.

The Southern Oregon town of Ashland is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, held over the eight-month period from February through late October – early November each year. The festival attracts an average of more than 100,000 visitors to its 750-800 annual presentations, each session consisting of eleven plays. Three separate venues are used to stage the productions; the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, the Thomas Theatre and the Angus Bowmer Theatre.

The festival’s economic impact on the town of Ashland is immense, generating an estimated $260 million annually and providing employment for between 1,000 – 1,500 in paid staff and volunteer positions. Aside from the economic benefits, the Oregon¬†Shakespeare Festival has become a source of artistic and civic pride for the entire state, becoming a true Oregon institution.

Although the works of Shakespeare are the festival’s primary “mission,” the organization also stages a wide range of both classic and contemporary productions by other playwrights. Sessions usually feature three to five Shakespeare “originals,” the others by various dramatists.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has featured many notable stage and film performers during its eight-decade history. This includes familiar names such as James Avery, Powers Boothe, Dick Cavett, William Hurt, Stacey Keach, Kyle MacLachlan and George Peppard, to list a few.

Highlights of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2018 season include Romeo and Juliet (June 5 – October 12) and Love’s Labour’s Lost (June 7 – October 14), both presented at the outdoor Allen Theatre. Othello (February 16 – October 28) and the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! (April 22 – October 27) are both presented at the Bowmer Theatre. Henry V (February 21 – October 27) and the world premiere production of The Way the Mountain Moved (July 10 – October 28) are both staged at the Thomas Theatre.

Stage productions are the festival’s trademark, but it also features diverse artistry with its hugely popular Green Show. The show is staged at a free-to-attend outdoor venue featuring remarkable performers in genres ranging from music, dance, acrobatics, juggling, magic, clowns, storytelling, believe-it-or-not science demonstrations, puppet shows, and virtually everything in between.

If you’re coming from outside of Ashland to experience the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, you will need to stay somewhere nearby to fully experience everything at the festival. Country Willows Inn is a great local bed and breakfast that has an Oregon Shakespeare Festival package available for guests. The package includes your room and discounted tickets to the play of your choice.

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