Death, Tragedy, and Spicy Wings – Day One at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Romeo (Daniel José Molina) feasts his eyes on Juliet (Alejandra Escalante) in the privacy of the Capulet gardent. Photo: Jenny Graham.

Living in Seattle affords one certain opportunities– selection of breweries, assortment of strange persons with whom to share your evening, and an eight hour proximity to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (by 1992 Honda Civic).

As my budget allows, I like to visit Ashland to take inappropriate advantage (my hand is so far up this skirt, I should probably pay for dinner) of this proximity to sleaze it up for three days. There’s nothing I enjoy more than driving down to Ashland for a week of good theatre, and I mean really fucking good theatre.

The plan is simple: five or six shows in three days spending as little money as possible. Gas is generally the biggest budget buster because if you plan in advance you can score $20 tickets to all the performances. Get a hotel in a mile and half radius and you don’t have to pay for parking (I like the Manor Motel, but there are number of cheap options usually looking crumbly next to the expensive ones). Add a fridge in your hotel room, and you don’t even have to buy meals. But it is a vacation so finding cheap, delicious food that isn’t cold or doesn’t come from a gas station is kind of awesome.

My first day in Ashland started off with a matinee performance of Romeo and Juliet (running through Nov. 4th; tickets) at the Angus Bowmer Theatre. My associations with Romeo and Juliet are fairly similar to most people’s. It’s probably the only Shakespeare I saw for the first fifteen years of my life. It was a staple of community theatres, high school workshops and various repertories in the immediate vicinity, and it was assigned reading in middle school. However, the benefit of R&J is universal understanding of what’s going to happen. There is no surprise twist.

The negative, of course, is that because it’s so well known, your audience has a few more expectations. What you hope is that your lovers are believable and the fights are well-choreographed. The only thing that can truly destroy an R&J production out of the gate (besides the aforementioned) is a poorly executed backdrop. I once saw a beach bum themed production of Twelfth Night if you need a reference for this, or there’s the horror of Hamlet in space.

Read more at The Sunbreak.

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