Tag Archives: Ashland

How to Festival

18 Oct

Greetings, friends! I’m afraid you’ve caught me in my semi-annual if-it’s-not-about-OSF-don’t-talk-to-me post.

Obviously, I’ve just returned from my group trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. As you may know by now, I typically take this trip with a gathering of twenty-something high-schoolers, and it was with that group I saw the plays and attended a few activities – but for the most part, my mother and I stuck with our carpool team, my friend Gracie (the Wasp) and her parents.

The Ashland carpool teams in themselves are always an interesting study.

Every year, when our group congregates outside the Angus Bowmer theater, you can always tell which kids took cars together because a highly-caffeinated four-hour drive has a certain affect on people. They walk in sync, they say things in unison, and they basically walk around going

As Gracie was sentenced to sit next to me for the entirety of the trip, the image above is more or less an accurate photograph of us (she’s classic Dipper) ((Plus, she brought a couple of Cabin Pressure episodes to listen to. 10/10 would sit by again)

This year we enjoyed a spectacular trip, and should you consider making an Ashland trip of your own, I dearly hope it is as good as mine. The OSF experience is different for everyone, but there are some constants in the equation. I’ve recorded such constants in the below five steps that my group took and would now highly recommend.

1. See Ashland

Ashland is a gorgeous place. Simple as that. Gracie and I took many walks downtown, exploring stores we’d not seen before and trying out new restaurants, always making sure to drop in what became one of the taglines of our trip, “Oh my gosh I want to sit down so badly.” Of course there were high-energy times of the trip as well, and you could tell when one was going on, because one of us was belting out “SUITS” at two-second intervals and the other was swirling around street lights, crooning “THE WINGMAN I CAN WEAAR.” Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit is the first track on the official soundtrack of this trip.

2. Participate in the activities Ashland offers

Museums, walking tours, the Green show – Ashland won’t let you get bored. The group with which we bought tickets arranged a field trip to “Exploring Design,” a workshop led by Chris Tufts to explain how the costume designers at OSF use symbolism and character studies to decide on the best possible costumes. During the group activity, my team got so into the spirit of things that we very nearly dressed The Tempest‘s Caliban in Steampunk Darth Maul regalia. In any case, I expect a job offer with the festival within the month.

3. Meet the people

When you separate from your group of peers, you are freed up to meet more of the fascinating Ashland locals. Of course everyone has different ways of getting connected. Some people may strike up a conversation with their neighbors in the audience of the plays they see. Others might greet the people enjoying beautiful Lithia Park. My personal strategies included holding eye contact with the SOU students wearing fandom t-shirts and talking loudly to the Wasp about the Festival in the presence of OSF actors who were trying to get errands done in peace. What’s that? Passive socializing is not for you? Then may I recommend seeing Into the Woods and waving so hard at orchestra musicians onstage that you nearly lift off your seat?

(My row and the trumpet section really bonded. We’re going for coffee next week.)

4. Enjoy the plays

Obviously the plays are a must. The people at OSF know what they’re doing, and each play is a masterpiece. This season I saw The Cocoanuts, The Tempest, Into the Woods, and A Wrinkle in Time, though I would have loved to see more. They were all astounding in their own ways, from the ingenuity of the stage design in the Tempest, to the frankly ridiculous amount of fun the cast of the Cocoanuts was obviously having. There are tips to enjoying it as much as possible. Before A Wrinkle in Time, I read a chapter of the original work out loud to my seat buddy, and I finished the Tempest shortly before making the trip. Pre-show preparation can only do so much when the play is actively going on however, so my most certain suggestion is that you sit next to someone you may punch in the arm mercilessly, should the mood take you.

Sorry, Gracie. But I’m pretty sure we were even on that front, right?

5. Be a good audience

I love a lot of things about live theatre, but one of the main things has to be that it’s one of the few story-telling outlets where overt, unbridled enthusiasm is encouraged. Actors don’t want to play in front of a room of people half-asleep. They want to know you’re there. And considering that my one true gift is enthusiastic response, there’s no question as to why OSF is my happy place. Every audience I was a part of was excellent – it’s hard not to be responsive in Ashland. Like I said, they know what they’re doing.

When we went in to see A Wrinkle in Time, Gracie even started a small-scale round of applause for Calvin’s impressive basketball-twirling, and the actor went on to do that move for far, far longer than he had when I’d seen this play before.

Encouragement! Try it today!

At the Q&A session after the play, the darling who played Mrs. Who bounced in and said that the whole cast had asked her to tell us that we’d been a wonderful audience.

And don’t fret, Gracie and I went ahead and took way more credit than we probably should have.

The morning after I arrived home, I awoke with a cough that announced itself as the incarnation of the last four days having been spent alternately singing at the top of my lungs and scream-shouting “WHY A DUCK,” “YOU’VE GOT DREAMBOAT EYES,” and”AGONYYY” at every shadow of an opportunity.

If anything is a sign that a trip went well, that’s got to be it.

All by following five easy steps!

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Dreamboat Eyes

28 Apr

I’ve told you before how much I love A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle.

I’ve definitely already discussed my adoration for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

So as I’ve just recently returned from a trip to OSF to see A Wrinkle in Time adapted for the stage, we can safely assume that I have no plans to ever stop talking about the experience ever ever.

That’s what this post is for. You’ve been warned.

This was a Christmas gift from my sister Jennifer, so she was my traveling buddy this time around. Therefore, she was the designated receiver of slaps and elbow nudges.

(When I get excited, I have the unfortunate propensity to physically attack the nearest human being. It’s totally endearing.)

We walked into the Angus Bowmer. Slap. Slap slapslapslap.

Calvin walked on stage. Nudge. nudge nudgenudGENUDGENUDGE ELBOW STAB.

(Jen is has to be a good sport.)

As the actors milled about the stage [see also: taunting us] waiting for the play to begin, Calvin lay down and and began to practice his spin with the basketball in the air. And it hurt me a little. I played basketball until ninth grade, so I have experienced that particular drill too many times to not be nervous watching someone else do it. (Dropping the ball can go so wrong. Eventually, that basketball is either headed for your nose, the sloshiest part of your gut, or, by some ill-intentioned miracle, three hundred feet away. I found that each one happened to me with the same frequency.) So when Calvin actually did drop the ball and had to do the scramble of shame to go grab it, I felt that we connected.

It doesn’t take much. I make a lot of friends with people who are unaware of our friendship.

I make a lot of friends with people who don't know about our friendship.

After all, he was dressed like a Weasley, and they’re a friendly bunch for the most part.

When the lights lowered and the play began in earnest,  the actress playing Charles Wallace opened up a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and read aloud,

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

It felt like reading the book. Every cast member eventually filed out, each one alternately reading a line or two of the introduction and helping Meg (Alejandra Escalante) act it out. We quickly met her mom, saw the rumors about her dad, understood her sibling relationships, and absolutely felt her pain and confusion. The only thing that went through my mind in between the gaps of adoring thoughts for the beloved characters, I had only thoughts of adoration for the actors.

I have been way too excited for this play from the very beginning. Of course it started when I heard it was going to exist. I mean –

  • Favorite book
  • Favorite festival
  • Favorite medium of entertainment

And then I found out  Joe Wegner was cast – the fantastic actor who, evidently, was born to play Calvin. Then Alejandra Escalante, the talented, perfectly-cast, and adorable Juliet from OSF 2013. Mark Bedard, the amazing man whose voice I’ve had a crush on since She Loves Me 2010, and Dan Donahue, the marvelous actor whom I’ve been missing since Hamlet 2010, and Kate Hurster, the spectacular actress whom I have seen in possibly every single OSF play for the past five years. (no complaints. That lady is Wonder Woman)

 

The dialogue was verbatim from the book.  Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which were represented perfectly and adorably. The affection every character felt for the others was almost tangible. I adored every bit.

But like any spectacle-sporting girl who’s ever enjoyed a romantic comedy, one of my favorite scenes had to be in the twins’ vegetable garden, after Meg’s brief homework session with Calvin.

I mean, come on. Any scene that has the opener,

“Jeepers. Your braces sure shine in this moonlight,”

Is going to be a good one.

I admit to [and embrace] every drop of cliche associated with the following, but seeing as I blushed when I read the scene for the first time, you can imagine how I reacted when Perfect-for-Calvin Joe Wegner clumsily wiped off Meg’s glasses and  announced,

“You know, this is the first time I’ve seen you without your glasses. You’ve got dreamboat eyes.”

I kid you not, the entire audience collapsed into giggles like a classroom of second graders.

Meg’s reaction was just as priceless.

Nothing better.

And this is coming from someone who is fiercely in love the book. A book adaption is almost always a little bit of a disappointment. In fact, I was certain, going in, that they would try to find a way to squirm out of doing Mrs. Whatsit’s transformation. I was preparing myself to mourn its absence, but I didn’t really blame them in advance. Because how could you portray that onstage? That’s ridiculous. They can’t do that.

They did do that.

Perfect.

Short version: I loved this play. The whole audience seemed to. That affection is precisely why it had to be perfect, and also why it was. Wrinkle in Time is a story about love and how it destroys obstacles.

Mrs. Whatsit loved Meg into a solution for her problem. Meg loved Charles Wallace out of his enslavement. Calvin loved Meg out of her loneliness. The whole Murry family is held together by love, and the love needs to be almost corporeal in such a production, for both the original story, and for the audience. It was. I felt like I had received a hug from everyone involved in it.

I’m not even certain how to properly describe it.

You should just go watch it instead.

Seriously though.

Additionally: Because Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

16 Oct

Let me tell you a thing about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

It’s marvelous. Eleven plays on three theaters for around nine months. The actors are consistently superb, and the the plays never disappoint. I look forward to OSF every year, and try to glean as much advance knowledge about every season as I possibly can.

For example, I found out they were doing My Fair Lady around September of last year, so I have been looking forward to this season for something way too long. I watched the previews, researched the actors, counted down the days, and finally, finally, actually went to OSF and watched the plays.

I went with a group this year, as I have every year since 2010. It started out as a thing my literature group did, but each year, more people come who want to go to OSF with group rate tickets, and this time around we ended up with about fifty people, mainly teens and a few of their parents.

So obviously there was some carpooling involved, and, once again obviously, there was a lot of singing involved in that particular process. The people in my car were really good sports about this (you’re a woman of steel, mom). I shared a ride with my friends the Wasp, the Invisible Woman, the Scarlet Witch, and Mockingbird.

(Those are real people, by the way. Those may not be their real names, but I promise I didn’t just name four of my imaginary friends.)

Heading up the group is a person about whom I have blogged before, so you can feel as though you already know her (we’ll call her Martha Smith). You may remember a few months back when I spent an entire post trying to calm myself down because someone insulted my favorite book?

There she is!

I had thought I’d passed this particular stumbling block of rage in my life; I respect this woman after all, she is very sweet most of the time, and she used to write nice things in the margins of my essays when I was in her class.

The second morning we were in Ashland, Martha Smith called us all together after breakfast to talk about the play we had seen the night before, and the play we were going to see that night (I talk about those plays here). Somehow, it turned into a talk about something else entirely.

“I read a lot of books to find the right ones for our class. One of which was Wrinkle in Time, which was completely irredeemable, no value to be found…. I just wouldn’t waste my time on it.”

Read those last two sentences again, replacing “Wrinkle in Time” with the name of your best friend, and you’ll have a ballpark idea of how I felt. And I was in the front row, man. There were people around me. So, instead of growling like a feral dog, like I did with the whole email fiasco, I turned to the Invisible Woman and mouthed “Get me out of here.” She’s a good soul, and gave me her hand to squeeze until the subject changed.

But it came back.

Days later, but the subject did come back.

We had a couple more days full of unbridled awesome, brought to life by unhealthy amounts of references to fictional universes, quoting British dramas, singing show tunes, and using My Fair Lady-inspired pick-up lines (Hey girl. I’ve grown accustomed to your face).

Thursday was our last full day, and its most anticipated-events  were showers at a swimming pool (Up until now, it had been forty-something teenagers with no showers for three days. Not ideal.) and an interview with an Ashland actor.

Our group has been doing this since 2011; we kidnap an actor as he tries to leave the theater and lead him blind-folded into our midst. We then pelt him with weird questions until he weeps. (at least, that’s what it feels like)

It’s good fun!

This year, we interviewed Joe Wegner, who played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

One of the questions was about whether Wegner knew the actor who played the easy-on-the-eyes Robin Hood (John Tufts), whom our group had seen in Heart of Robin Hood the night before.

When Wegner answered positively, and mentioned that Tufts had recently had a baby with his wife, the girl in front of me headdesked.

Just let her head fall down on the table in defeat.

It was tragic.

I widened my eyes, distanced myself from her, and hoped that I wasn’t quite as painfully obvious when I fangirled.

And then I went home and blogged to strangers about my fangirlisms.

Hm.

Moving on?

Halfway into the interview, in between references to Game of Thrones, Zoolander, and Bruce Almighty, Wegner began to address a question regarding the actor casting process.

“Actually,”

he concluded,

“I’ve been cast for this one play, you guys might have read it; it’s actually a world premiere, Wrinkle in Time?”

Evidently, I forgot that real people were sitting around me, because I gasped like a drowning woman and adopted a facial expression not unlike the one I had on while Robin Hood was gallivanting around the stage with a certain ring.

So, you know.

He continued,

“I play Calvin.”

I got to talk to this actor afterward, shake his hand (Didn’t want to creep him out by tackling him and telling him what a perfect Calvin he would make), and ask him about who was playing Meg.

She’s perfect, by the way.

Everything is perfect.

Wrinkle in Time and Ashland and Calvin and Meg and sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows

What?

Sorry. I’m fine. Let’s get back on track here.

It’s worth mentioning that at the end of the trip, my friend Lestrade (once again: real person, fake name) talked to Martha Smith and confronted her with the beauty that is Wrinkle in Time and why it had a profound effect on her.

Martha even sort of apologized to the Madeleine L’engle fans the next morning.

Good on you, mate.

This was a fantastic trip, as it has been every time I attend. Oregon Shakespeare Festival is up there with Christmas on my list of favorite annual events. And while this trip certainly set the bar high…

I’m very excited for 2014.

Maybe I should read Wrinkle in Time again to prepare.

Because Oregon Shakespeare Festival

13 Oct

Hello fellow fanpeople!

I recently returned from a journey to Ashland, OR, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

A festival, I might add, that I have been looking forward to for over a year. You can call me obsessive, but hey, at least it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. This festival has managed to be one of the highlights of every year since I started going in 2010, and it never disappoints.

To contain my fangirling into reasonable portions, this is one of two Ashland-flavored posts. This one is made up of emotions-fueled, unprofessional reviews of the plays I got to see this year, and the next post is my emotions-fueled, unprofessional personal experience.

MY FAIR LADY

my fair lady

I adored this production; it’s one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen in Ashland (and that’s saying quite a lot). Casting was fantastic, the choreography was superb, the stage direction was beautiful, and the lines were marvelous. Of course, Rachael Warren was just a darling as Eliza, and Jonathan Haugen’s (Henry Higgins) impersonation of a pouting seven-year-old completely done me in (that was a reference; please don’t judge me, I promise I can speak).

The singing was marvelous, and, at least in my opnion, did Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn (or Julie Andrews, depending on which records you prefer) very proud indeed.

And I should probably mention the cripplingly enchanting chemistry between Eliza and Henry, because if I didn’t, I would be leaving out a good seventy-five percent of the play.

Chemistry, people.

Also, feels. All of the feels. I wish I was exaggerating, but I assure you I am not. I was an emotional wreck (in the very best way) after seeing this performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if none of that made you want to see it, then try this: Freddy Eynsford-Hill singing “On the Street Where You Live” like an lovable stalker who’s still figuring out how to make his body do normal things like walk.

If you don’t go out and buy a ticket to this show right this second, you are the most ungrateful, wicked child who ever lived, and the angels will weep for you.

HEART OF ROBIN HOOD

robin hood

Casting was fabulous, storyline was captivating, the fight scenes were a joy to watch, the set was beautiful, and there was a ring.

{Hold up for a minute and let me talk about the ring. A ring was hanging from the top of the set, just over the balcony. The play begins by Robin Hood walking out to the ring and climbing on.

I can’t even begin to describe how much emphasis this move put on his arms. Now, hear this, I’m trying not to sound like the annoying teenage girl that I probably am, but I don’t care how mature you are, if everyone who saw that play was completely honest, they would all admit that whatever they were looking at before he started his little ring performance, as soon as he hopped on, suddenly the sole thought in everyone’s head was

“Oh look. Manly beauty.”}

Kate Hurster was, as she always is, radiant in her role of Maid Marian (love this actress), and John Tufts (love this actor) complemented her magnificently as Robin Hood. More chemistry. More emotions. More Henry Higgins, actually (Jon Haugen made a few appearances). Even the kids were fantastic, not often a word used to describe child actors.

I’m not sure how this happened, but the night my group and I went, a good third of the audience was sighing girls, and believe me, there were a lot of sigh-worthy moments. It sounded like a hurricane in there every time Tufts and Hurster glanced at each other. And if you’ve been reading my blog for even twenty seconds, you can imagine that I felt quite at home.

It’s equally worth mentioning that the majority of the this production’s players adopted a Scottish accent for this play. (I knooow.) But the play is closed now, so if you just excitedly opened a new tab to buy a ticket, I can only offer my sincerest condolences.

MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM

midsummer

This is not my favorite play by Shakespeare, but, that said, I will move along to the amazing part: Joe Wegner. I mean the actors. The actors were an amazing part.

The four lovers, Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena, are my favorite bit of that play, and their respective actors brought them to life with remarkable talent.

Also, Joe Wegner. This man, who played Lysander, spent all of his stage time jumping around like the adorable cartoon character that he is and making the audience laugh until we could no longer hear the lines being recited. Wayne Carr(Demetrius) brought loads of charm and humor to his character as well, Tanya McBride(Hermia) was not only exactly what Hermia ought to be, but super-duper cute, and Christiana Clark (Helena) was a delight as the very pretty victim of a very awkward accident.

The set was beyond gorgeous. Sparkles were applied without a shred of moderation (see also: perfect), the costumes were a spectacle in themselves, and the fairies hung their very own moon. If you’re imagining something cheesy and cut-out, then STOP throw that image away and replace it with nothing but beautiful. Done? Okay, you got it.

All this to say: These shows were a very serious investment in my happiness.

There were eight more plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival  this season that I did not see (regrettably), but I’m sure they were equally exemplary. If you’ve been before, leave a comment and tell me what you saw!

And if you’ve never gone to the Broadway of the West before, consider it.

And If you’ve considered it and ruled it out for any reason whatsoever, try considering it again.

Repeat these steps until you find yourself in Ashland, standing on the bricks between the Angus Bowmer and Elizabethan theaters, thinking, “How the heck did this even happen?”

Because you’re worth it.