A Panoply of Elizabethan Diversions
The Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival is America’s largest and longest celebration of the Bard, running eight months out of the year in this sunny, picturesque town, where theater lovers stroll around in “Will Power” T-shirts and boast of having crammed six plays into one weekend.
Inaugurated in 1935, the festival’s repertory group has since grown into one of the nation’s largest professional theater companies, with more than seventy actors performing up to 200 roles each season.
In addition to the eleven plays presented annually – four by Shakespeare and seven by various classic and contemporary playwrights, each with a run of four to eight months – there are also backstage tours, lectures and discussions led by actors and scholars, alfresco concerts featuring a mix of period and world music and dance.
Particularly evocative are summer-night performances at the open-air Elizabethan Stage, the most important of the festival’s three official venues, built in 1959.
Few small cities of this size (20,000, minus theatergoers and artists in residence) can boast the number and variety of lauded restaurants and charming accommodations found in Ashland. The aptly named Peerless Hotel (once a railroad-workers’ boarding house, today offering Frette linens and Aveda toiletries) has six lovingly appointed rooms.
These take a backseat to the restaurant next door, whose acclaimed wine cellar guarantees the perfect complement to a menu that showcases the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. It’s the best table in town.