Letter: ‘It’s not 1600. It’s not 1935. Shakespeare will survive nonetheless.’

October 5, 2022

I write in response to Mr. Rothschild’s claims that the lack of Shakespeare’s works at OSF somehow denigrate the quality of its season offerings. Shakespeare’s works have been my passion since I was a small child, and they drew me to Ashland again and again. But I’m confused by Mr. Rothschild’s concern. Much like Ms. Mendel, I find his lack of evidence (in what is an entirely objective field of opinion) difficult to find a rebuttal against. However, I have some math to present.

OSF’s 2015 season under Bill Rauch consisted of only 27% Shakespeare (three of 11 plays). The 2017 season had four of 11 (36%) original Shakespeare, as well as two different Bard-related adaptations — “Shakespeare in Love” and “Off the Rails.” That’s six of 11 (54%) celebrating Shakespeare. The 2019 season had four of 10 (40%), including the Play On! adaptation of “Comedy of Errors” — a way to bring Shakespeare to bilingual and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) audiences.

The 2020 season had three of nine (33%), including their adaptation of “Henry IV,” plus “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” meaning four of nine (44%) brought Shakespeare to the stage. While treading chaotic waters in 2021, the Cymbeline Project brought Shakespeare to OSF and to TVs and laptops.

This year there’s three of nine, 33%. A third of the season. Next year, two of eight (25%). This is close to that of 2015. In combination with the readjusted, more accessible ticket prices, this will likely not cause a terrible loss of revenue or cultural impact compared to years previous.

Finally, I offer that while Mr. Rothschild states he does not find the diversity of casting or crew in these stagings to be an issue. A consistent schedule of the same, single playwright who has defined Western theater for centuries does not a diverse season make. Focusing on any one author betrays the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives wholeheartedly, particularly when said author was a white, English-speaking man. There can be room at the table for all of us, especially when the Bard is readily celebrated all across the globe, in high schools, in films, and will be until this industry collapses. And if we don’t support new works — works that are unfamiliar, that make those of us at home with the Bard uncomfortable, works that tell new stories– it might.

Peter James

Ellensburg, Washington

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