Saturday, September 17, 2011


So, the vacation.

It has been more than three years since I've had a real vacation. I've traveled, mind you, but it has been either for work or family-related. There has not been a hull-down, recharge the batteries, going-on-vacation vacation for some time now.

So that resulted in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ashland is located on the FAR side of Oregon, about ten miles from the California border. Originally it was a railway town, and was the location of one (of many, apparently) "golden spikes" that bound together America. It being America, they pushed through another line elsewhere and sidelined Ashland.

The town reinvented itself. Home to Chautauquas, they transformed over time into the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Now it is a cultural destination - this is the place the English teachers go on vacation.

I've lived for many years in a vacation town (Lake Geneva), so I am aware of three populations of the town. The tourist crowd in Ashland tends to be older and wealthier. The support staff (waitstaff, retail) is much, much younger, and the gap is underlines as there is also a large component of young people using Ashland as a stopover between San Francisco and Portland. The final component are the majority - the natives who live here and are not directly incorporated into the tourist industry. They have a small town life and (using my own time in Lake Geneva as an example) avoid the downtown unless they have to.

It even has a picture in Wikipedia.
The festival is presented at three main stages, built up the hill from the city proper. The Elizabethan Stage (also called the Allen Pavilion) is the oldest, though remodeled over the years. An open-air amphitheater with a thrust stage and a period Tudor backdrop, it has a flavor of the globe with more room (and replacing the groundlings with stadium seats). The Angus Bowmer is also a thrust stage (sticks out into the audience), but is inside with a steeper pitch to the seating. And the New Theatre (naming rights apparently still available) is created as a theatre in the round.

The trip down was relatively long but uneventful. Lunch at Meriwethers, a pricy but sumptuous meal in Portland (great crab risotto), and a visit to the Japanese Garden high on the western hill overlooking the city. We arrived after dark, but the Blue Moon B&B left a light on for us.

The Blue Moon, by the way, is a fantastic little bed & breakfast - close to the theaters, away from the downtown, neat, comfortable, and homey. Its proprietor, Dean, is a wonderful cook, both providing the excellent breakfast part of the "bed and breakfast" but also taking into account the Lovely Bride's egg allergy, which makes such things problematic sometimes. It is with regrets that we just an email that he's selling the place, but were glad to have him as our host. It was a great place to recharge the internal batteries.

Oh, yeah, there were also plays involved. More on those later.