Meanwhile, down in the sunny south | Opening weekend at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is February 21-23

It’s that time of year.

Every February, during the depths of the Pacific Northwest winter, a special call goes out to west coast theatre faithful for a gala weekend experience unlike any other.

On offer are openings of four plays produced to the highest standards, usually spanning the spectrum from comedy to tragedy to musical, at one of the country’s largest theatre centers outside of New York. There are press conferences and discussions with directors and actors. What remains of a theatre press corps shows up. And as far as big theatre gatherings go, there is as much of a red carpet feel here as you are going to find.

So where does all this action go down? Is it Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Aberdeen? But no. The destination is the remote and tiny town of Ashland, Oregon in the Rogue Valley. More or less located in the middle of nowhere, about 300 miles to Portland one way and farther to San Francisco the other, the Southern Oregon hamlet has become, through a series of fortuitous historical accidents, one of the largest theatre centers anywhere. Lo – for it is here that the mighty Oregon Shakespeare Festival makes its home. [blow trumpets]

Opening weekend 2014 is about a month away. So what’s on tap down south? The two shows of most interest to me are THE SIGN IN SIDNEY BRUSTEIN’S WINDOW and THE COCOANUTS, but no doubt all four openers will be exciting. They are designed to work well together.

Four openings in three days.
Four openings in three days.

And if you haven’t been to Ashland before? It’s a four season paradise (we’re in Oregon after all). In addition to the theatre, there’s food, alpine and nordic skiing, trail running, mountain biking, rafting, fishing etc. Where else can you ski around Crater Lake in the morning and then watch a Shakespeare play in the evening (and of course fit in an Espresso Shake at Rogue Valley Roasters in between)? Nowhere I know.

To steal a line from Wyoming – Ashland is like almost no place on earth. It combines the culture of a big city with the outdoor offerings the west is famous for. In a place like Ashland, we can have it all.

So get ye down there – pronto!

The countdown is on…

Elizabethan Stage.
Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Opening weekend 2011 was a snowy affair in town.

Thomas Theatre (formerly The New Theatre).
Thomas Theatre.

Angus Bowmer Theatre.
Angus Bowmer Theatre.