Herb Rothschild’s recent column (Aug. 12, “Let’s talk about OSF”) speaks for so many of us. I stopped attending Oregon Shakespeare Festival long before the pandemic. There’s a reason that Shakespeare’s plays still move us deeply and teach us so much, five centuries after they were written. Young people, no less than old people and everyone in between, need quality lessons in what life is all about.
You can update some language, you can put the characters in early California, Coney Island, China or the middle of the Iraq war, so long as the script/text is treated with respect and the theme and the deep, nuanced messages are unimpeded.
The artistic choices in the last several years have been toward poorer quality works that will not last for a decade, much less centuries, and the essential soul of so many classically brilliant non-Shakespearean works — butchered. Turning Gilbert and Sullivan’s tragic, powerful “Yoemen” into a hee-haw dance fest? Injecting explicit sexual imagery into Jane Austen? It’s avant-garde for the sake of ego, not a beautiful adaptation that respects the work.
People travel to Ashland for a true cultural experience, Shakespeare and others. But focusing on edgy “new”ness for its own sake? Respect for what is worthy of respect!
Shakespeare is our brand. Quality plays with lasting appeal is our brand. Our potential audience is in the millions — if we provide what they can’t get elsewhere.