Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Much Ado About Ashland

Ashland has a flavor all its own. The Shakespeare Festival is certainly part of it -- a very big part. But it's more than that. It's the people who make up the town's permanent residents and the low-key, small-town pride that make this town what it is. In fact, I believe that Ashland is more itself and projects its true, more private spirit between the months of October and March, when the stage lights are turned off, the tourists have gone home, and the smaller, twinklier lights line the old shop facades on Lithia Plaza .

But man, this town can put on a festival like no other! As much as I love peaceful, quiet true-to-self Ashland in the winter (when I feel like a visitor), I really love flamboyant, bright, dramatic Ashland in the summer (when I feel like a tourist). And today was one big touristy day!

The backstage tour is one of the highlights of a visit to Ashland because you're given a sneak peak into the inner working of the festival, from how the actors are hired (20 hires for 5000+ auditions!) to the sets (200 detailed complicated set changes per play, per season, averaging two per day at two hours each), to the costumes (the second biggest department after the actors themselves). I've been on the back stage tour quite a few times, and each time I leave feeling like I've been let in on some deep, dark secrets... along with 100 other people!

After making Dad's favorite stuffed green peppers for dinner, I headed off to the big Elizabethan theater by way of Lithia Park (surely one of the most beautiful parks in the country) to see an unusual performance of Romeo & Juliet.

But first, I had the chance to enjoy the pre-performance "green show," featuring excellent ballet dancers (and, I couldn't help noticing, their well-chiseled male ballet buns!). The play was excellent -- although I'm still not sure how I feel about the unusual idea of dressing the younger Montagues and Capulets in today's fashions and the older generation of both houses in Italian Renaissance costumes. I ignored it after a while, which means to me that it wasn't as effective -- and certainly not as impactful -- as the creative director had hoped. Still, what drama, what emotion! What a performance!

I'm only kinda sorta working on finding a job this week. I'm following up on some and applying for others, but basically I really need to take a few days away from it all. Maybe if I don't obsess about it, things will start happening as they're meant to. That would be wonderful.

For now, I'm enjoying the sunshine, the peace and quiet, my dad and Lou, and this amazingly colorful, vibrant, alive town, hoping some of its spirit will rub off on me.

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Rebecca said...

it sounds like a great place! and stuffed green peppers - yum. What are they stuffed with?

Carol said...

They're stuffed with a mixture of brown rice, ground beef, Italian sausage and spices (and an egg and some bread crumbs)... and then I pour good pasta sauce over it all and bake. Yummy!


christina said...

*sigh* This is making me all nostalgic. Ashland will always have a special place in my heart. I spent a week there in 1985 and got to attend the Shakespeare Festival, among other things. Thanks for the lovely memories. :-)

Anonymous said...

I really will have to visit Ashland sometime soon. I have heard so much about it and your post just made me want to experience it more.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow -- I just returned from ashland a few weeks ago and this brings it all back. thanks for the memories!

Gem of the Ocean is unmissable this year.


Anonymous said...

I love your blog! I'm coming here when I get too homesick for the Northwest.

Thanks for the beautiful pics--lovely really. I loved my first (and only) visit to Ashland.

(Speaking of Shakespeare--I saw Taming of the Shrew done in western attire and it was fabulous, but it's ticky to pull off something from two times and places.)

Thanks for the nostalgia blast.

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