Letter: ‘Ultimately, the best, most universal works survive’

September 5, 2022

I hereby risk the wrath of Oregon Shakespeare Festival defenders by acknowledging that I started to fall out of love with OSF towards the end of Bill Rauch’s tenure (“Oklahoma!” was a hard pill to swallow). This year, I feel my long love affair with OSF is dangerously close to the end. Gone are the seasons when I wouldn’t think of missing any of the 11 productions, going to many a second and even a third time. Now I give myself permission to leave at intermission.

I guess I’m part of the traditional OSF audience that OSF seems quite willing, even happy, to shed. More power to them if they can fill this season’s half-empty houses with younger, hipper, more woke audiences. More power to them if they can refill the decimated ranks of OSF volunteers, many of them longtime supporters who, I suspect, now feel alienated for one reason or another. (I’m guessing fear of COVID-19 and unpredictable weather account for only a portion of audience/volunteer desertions.)

Personally, I don’t go to the theater to be preached at, force-fed, and sometimes shamed, but to be moved, entertained and, yes, exposed to new, diverse, cutting-edge theater. (I will never forget “Topdog/Underdog,” ’04; “Intimate Apparel,” ’06; or “Gem of the Ocean,” ’07 — all by African-American playwrights.) OSF has embraced diversity for a long time; may it return to a more inclusive model.

As for keeping the OSF name, Shakespeare seems to have been shunted aside along with the rest of us oldsters. Ultimately, the best, most universal works survive.

Julia Sommer


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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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