While there are dozens and dozens of Shakespeare festivals throughout the world on any given year, my favorite is held right here in the states. This one is a Tony Award-winning festival in our nation and is guaranteed to thrill and ignite the artist in each member of your tour group; Southern Oregon’s own Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, where culture is king! Oregon itself sets the stage for a whimsical journey in the midst of evergreens, whitewater adventures and free-spirited people that call it home.
That’s why this first theater is perfect because for those partial to outdoor theater, that is an option with the 1190 seat Elizabethan Open-Air Pavilion which runs from June to October where your eyes will be focused anywhere but up to the starry night overhead. However, a little improv could be in order if Mother Nature is in attendance! Rain vouchers may be given for the Elizabethan, however, the actors will continue to perform throughout inclement weather as long as it appears safe to do so.
Should the weather take a dive or if any of your team members have allergies to pollen and whatnot, plan your trip for the 600 seats Angus Bowmer Theatre or the 360 seat Thomas Theatre, each within walking distance of one another and all offer fine visibility and wonderful seating throughout. The roots of the OSF took hold in the late 1800s when Ashland residents constructed the first performance building that has since expanded to occupy 4 acres right across from Lithia Park where the water is said to be healing in nature, yet wretched in taste. Though they began with only Shakespearean performances, this organization offers 11 different plays like A Streetcar Named Desire, four of which are by Shakespeare himself. While many of the plays are classics, the OSF plays a refreshingly pronounced angle that is not only modern but even more engaging so that depth and entertainment merge to bring only the best live theater; all Broadway-worthy. Shows are even offered in between shows to keep the audience’s attention. These free “in-betweens” range from dancing, juggling, music and a variety of other talents conjured up by the theater.
One important note for team travel is to remember to wear layers! Between the air-conditioned theaters and the weather outside that can be downright chilly, it’s best to dress casually and come prepared! Generously, blankets and pillows are available to rent onsite, but your own clothes are obviously free. Whether you are accommodating a senior tour, a student drama group, family reunion or the like, many groups opt to spend three days in Ashland and see a play a day over the weekend. Teachers and group leaders are encouraged to bring their students and travel partners behind the curtain to backstage events and discussions that explore the layers of actors, scene artists and directors that contribute to the world-class success of the performances. Enjoy the show!