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Step into the captivating world of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), a cultural gem nestled in the picturesque town of Ashland, Oregon. Immerse yourself in the enchanting history of this renowned festival that has been a beacon for lovers of the performing arts since its inception in 1935.
The roots of the OSF trace back to 1893 when the community of Ashland erected a venue for Chautauqua events, hosting luminaries such as John Philip Sousa and William Jennings Bryan during annual 10-day seasons. Fast forward to 1935, and the festival found its Shakespearean calling when Southern Oregon University drama professor Angus L. Bowmer transformed the Chautauqua site into a makeshift Elizabethan stage, presenting Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice. Little did he know that this marked the birth of the "First Annual Oregon Shakespearean Festival."
From its humble beginnings, the festival has evolved into a theatrical powerhouse, attracting audiences from around the country. Even in the face of challenges like the hiatus during World War II and the recent disruptions in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the OSF has stood resilient, consistently delivering quality productions.
The Ashland festival's leadership transitioned over the years, with notable figures like Jerry Turner, Libby Appel, and Bill Rauch contributing to its growth. Rauch's visionary initiatives, such as the American Revolutions program, showcasing 37 new plays inspired by Shakespeare, have left an indelible mark on the festival's legacy.Over the decades, the OSF has hosted esteemed personalities like Bing Crosby, Charles Laughton, and Stacy Keach, further cementing its status as a cultural Mecca. The festival's unique traditions, such as the post-play candle-lit procession and the Feast of Will, add a touch of magic to each season.
In 1988, the Oregon Shakespearean Festival became the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, reflecting its expanded reach and influence. The festival's commitment to community engagement is evident in initiatives like Daedalus, a fundraiser to support victims of HIV/AIDS initiated in 1987.
The OSF's impact extends beyond Ashland, with the establishment of a resident theater in Portland in 1988, evolving into the independent Portland Center Stage in 1994. The festival's achievements include winning the Tony Award for outstanding achievement in regional theater in 1983 and being recognized as the second-best regional theater in the United States by Time in 2003.
In response to evolving language dynamics, the OSF launched Play On! in 2017, translating all of Shakespeare's plays into contemporary English. This groundbreaking initiative has since become an independent nonprofit organization, Play On Shakespeare.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the OSF has shown remarkable resilience and we look forward to seeing what Tim Bond has in store for the coming seasons. The introduction of O!, an interactive online platform, and the adaptation of a hybrid season in 2021 underscore the festival's commitment to innovation and accessibility.
The festival continues to captivate audiences with its dynamic performances, ensuring an unforgettable experience for theater enthusiasts. Looking ahead, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival invites you to experience a stellar lineup in 2024:
Book your stay at the Winchester Inn during the Ashland Shakespeare Festival dates to immerse yourself fully in the magic of this cultural celebration. Explore the festival's rich history, witness world-class performances, and create lasting memories in the charming town of Ashland, Oregon.
Don't miss this opportunity to be part of the fun of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2024!