One gem in Ashland has been the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Shakespeare’s plays are literary and social genius. They are already living plays, capturing love, war, power, buffoonery and human emotions of greed, foibles, heroism, prejudice, and evil. The plays do not need to be “reinvented” for the 2020s. People attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to see Shakespeare. Teachers bring their classes for the same reason. Because Shakespeare deals with human nature, the content is relevant to all humans.
Should Parisians perhaps remove “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre, and substitute it for a version repainted (by a far less talented artist) to make it “more relevant” to youth? Don’t mess with the Bard!
Each talented director and actor has a different take on human emotions and expression; certainly Shakespeare’s plays shouldn’t be performed the same way each time. The point is they don’t need weird embellishments or modernizations. In 2022, OSF’s “King John” missed out on portraying the privilege, cruelty, power and arrogance so central to that play. The incessant special effects of “The Cymbeline Project” made it boring, rather than engaging.
Extras: Some of the many educated and talented Ashland-area teachers, professors, artists and other residents might be willing to provide enrichment such as hands-on workshops on Elizabethan crafts, sports, cooking. They might offer video or in-person talks on the societal roles and opportunities available to women, peasants, Jews, Africans, servants, LGBTQ and royalty in the Elizabethan Era, or provide an example of an Elizabethan class session in English or math, science or etiquette. (How were kids taught then, anyhow? How did learning differ according to class and gender? What was known?)
Even if the 2024-25 season starts much smaller, OSF can recover. Bringing back Shakespeare as central to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is doable. It would be wonderful for our town, its many visitors to whom OSF has been important in the past, and new visitors who will love it.