Women Playwrights Can So Write

Trip Start Jul 26, 2005
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Trip End Aug 20, 2005


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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Saturday, July 30, 2005

After our jaunt at Crater Lake we headed south for Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As the festival runs almost all year round, the town has that quaint feeling of a place that lives solely due to the tourist market. Lots of stores full of Shakespeare bobbleheads, not so much in the way of grocery stores.

We headed to the Elizabethan Theatre for a production of Twelfth Night. The theatre is astounding: the stage makes use of a large Tudor style three-level building for entrances and exits and playing space, much of the type that would have formed the ubiquitous backdrop in Shakespeare's day. The play was good, even from our vantage point in the very last row on the second level (oddly, in Shakespeare's day those would have been the best seats, while the loser peasants would have had to content themselves with standing close to the stage), but it had been a long day of driving and hiking and I'll forgive the two heads that began to nod on either side of mine by the time Act III was a few scenes old.

On our second day at the Festival we were signed up for something close to my heart: a backstage tour. Of course all the things I really wanted to have a look at---the stage management booth, a prompt script for the plays, their armour stash---weren't on the agenda for what was a basic nuts 'n' bolts tour for people who believe that behind the set is an empty void where the actors simply stand awaiting their next moment in the limelight. I think the tour was actually more interesting for my parents because a lot of the information was newer to them than to me, although seeing the actual backstage area of the Elizabethan theatre and the stage crew in the process of switching the sets over for the matinee shows in the repertory was very interesting, especially as in one of the theatres they have to completely remove and replace the stage floor between shows.

I had a gander at the show notes for each of the shows---notes about actors still being out and understudy replacements, timing notes, call times, the usual---and the rules for costumes in case of rain (the Elizabethan theatre is open to the elements). In a very heavy downpour, the actors have to go on in street clothes.

At the matinee we went to see The Belle's Stratagem, an 18th-century work by a female playwright that, while well-received at the time, fell out of favour as women playwrights came to be considered unfashionable. The OSF production is the first in over a hundred years, and the director said in his program notes that while some plays deserve to die the death of obscurity, this one is a definite lost classic. I'd have to agree after seeing their delightful version of it; it's very funny, smart, sharp, with lots of good roles for women.
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