Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Elizabethan Theatre 2014.jpg
Allen Elizabethan Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Genre repertory theatre
Begins February
Ends November
Frequency annual
Location(s) Ashland, Oregon
Inaugurated 1935
Budget $32 million (annual)

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is a regional repertory theatre in Ashland, Oregon, United States. The festival annually produces eleven plays on three stages during a season that lasts from February to early November. From inception in 1935 through the end of the 2014 season (excepting the war years 1941–1946) the Festival has presented all 37 of Shakespeare's plays a total of 303 times and 293 other plays a total of 327 times for a total of some 29,200 performances to an audience totaling approximately fifteen million. A complete list by year and theater is available at the Main article: Production history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


View of OSF buildings from a footbridge in Lithia Park

A season at OSF consists of a wide range of classic and contemporary plays produced in three theatres. Three plays are staged in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, three in the Thomas Theatre, and five in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. OSF provides a broad range of educational programs for middle schools, high schools, college students and theatre professionals. While OSF has produced non-Shakespearean works since 1960, each season continues to include three to five Shakespeare plays. Since 1935, it has staged Shakespeare's complete canon three times, completing the first cycle in 1958 with a production of Troilus and Cressida and completing the second and third cycles through the works in 1978 and 1997. Since 2000, there has also been at least one new work each season from playwrights such as Octavio Solis and Robert Schenkkan. In addition to the plays, a free outdoor "Green Show" drawing audiences of 600 to 1200, precedes the evening plays from June through October from a modular steel stage with a sprung floor for the dancers, a removable wheelchair ramp for handicapped performers, and built-in storage facilities that eliminate carting equipment from and to distant storage facilities six days a week. Originally, it offered Elizabethan music and dancers. From 1966 till 2007, it consisted of three shows in rotation inspired by the plays showing in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Live music was supplied by the Terra Nova Consort and other guest musicians and modern dance was performed by Dance Kaleidoscope. In 2008, the Green Show was revamped. Performers may include a dance group from Mexico or India, clowns doing ballet on stilts, jugglers, or a fire show.[1] OSF actors might showcase their musical talents.

A Performance on the OSF Green Show stage

Improv, metal, or rock-n-roll variations on Shakespeare might be seen. Individual performers, groups, choirs, bands, and orchestras may present Afro-Cuban, baroque, blues, classical, contemporary, cowboy, funk, gospel, hip-hop, jazz, mariachi, marimba, poetry, marionette, renaissance, or salsa, sometimes combined in unexpected ways. Performers are drawn from throughout the Northwest and California.[2]

The Festival presents 750 to 800 performances of eleven plays in three theaters from February through early November each year, to a total audience of about 410,000 each season. The company of nearly 1400 people consists of about 675 paid staff and 700 volunteers.[3] The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is listed as a Major Festival in the book Shakespeare Festivals Around the World.[4]


In 1893, the residents of Ashland built a facility to host a Chautauqua event on July 5. In its heyday, it accommodated audiences of 1,500 for appearances by the likes of John Philip Sousa and William Jennings Bryan during annual 10-day seasons.[5]

In 1917, a new domed structure was built at the site, but it fell into disrepair after the Chautauqua movement died out in the 1920s. In 1935, the similarity of the remaining wall of the then roofless Chautauqua building to Elizabethan theatres inspired Southern Oregon Normal School drama professor Angus L. Bowmer to propose using it to present plays by Shakespeare. Ashland city leaders granted him a sum "not to exceed $400" (approximately equivalent to $6900 in present-day terms) to present two plays as part of the city's Independence Day celebration. However, they pressed Bowmer to add boxing matches to cover the expected deficit. Bowmer agreed, feeling such an event was in perfect keeping with the bawdiness of Elizabethan theatre, and the performances went forward. The Works Progress Administration helped construct a makeshift Elizabethan stage on the Chautauqua site,[6] and confidently billing it as the "First Annual Oregon Shakespearean Festival", Bowmer presented Twelfth Night on July 2 and July 4, 1935, and The Merchant of Venice on July 3, with Bowmer directing and playing the lead roles in both plays.[6] Reserved seats cost $1, with general admission of $.50 for adults and $.25 for children (approximately $17, $8.50 and $4.25 in 2014). Ironically, the profit from the plays covered the losses the boxing matches incurred.[7]

The festival has continued ever since (excepting 1941–1946, when Bowmer served in World War II), and quickly developed a reputation for quality productions. In 1939, OSF took a production of The Taming of the Shrew to the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco that was nationally broadcast on radio. The lead actress, learning at the last minute the broadcast would be to a national audience, suffered a panic attack, was rushed to the hospital and the stand-in took over. The scripts didn’t arrive on the set until three minutes before air time. The Festival achieved widespread national recognition when, from 1951 to 1973, NBC broadcast abbreviated performances each year that were carried by more than 100 stations and, after 1954 on Armed Forces Radio and Radio Free Europe. The programs won favorable review from critics and for the first time people began to come from around the country. The programs led Life magazine to do a story on the Festival in 1957, bringing even more people to the plays. The NBC programs and the subsequent attention go a long way to explaining the mystery of how a tiny out-of-the-way timber town in the Northwest became a theatrical and tourist Mecca.[8]

A second playhouse, the indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre, opened in 1970, enabling OSF to expand its season into the spring and fall; within a year, attendance tripled to 150,000. Bowmer retired in 1971, and leadership of the festival passed to Jerry Turner, a respected actor/director and later a translator of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg. Turner opened OSF's third theatre, the Black Swan, in 1977, and festival attendance soon reached 300,000. In 1983 OSF won a Tony Award for achievement in regional theatre. Five years later, the Oregon Shakespearean Festival was renamed the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. At the invitation of the City of Portland, from 1988 to 1994, OSF established a resident theatre in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, which later spun off to independence as Portland Center Stage. Those six seasons ran from November–April, and company members often worked in both cities.

Turner retired in 1991 and actor/director Henry Woronicz took control for five seasons. When Woronicz left in 1996, OSF recruited Libby Appel from the highly respected Indiana Repertory Theatre, and a guest director at OSF from 1988 to 1991, as artistic director. In 1997, the OSF-commissioned The Magic Fire was presented at the John F. Kennedy Center and named by Time among the year's best plays. In 2001, the ten millionth ticket to an OSF performance was sold. In 2002, the Thomas Theatre replaced the Black Swan as the venue for small, experimental productions in a Black box theatre. In 2003, Time named OSF as the second best regional theatre in the United States (Chicago's Goodman Theater was first).[9]

Bill Rauch succeeded Appel as Artistic Director in 2008. Rauch was the co-founder and artistic director of the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles and had been a guest director at OSF for six seasons prior to his appointment. His vision includes making direct connections between classic plays and contemporary concerns, exploring beyond the Western canon to incorporate Asian and African epics into the Festival, and reaching out to youth. While continuing to work with established playwrights, he has commissioned works by new ones, and has initiated the Black Swan Lab to develop new works for the stage. Each year, ten OSF actors are assigned to the Lab to work with Bill Rauch, OSF Dramaturg Lue Douthit, and Producer Sarah Rasmusen.as one of their regular repertory assignments. In recognition of his work, he has received the Margo Jones Award for his impact on American theatre in 2009.

Inspired by Shakespeare's canon of plays, Rauch initiated a 10-year commissioning program of up to 37 new plays called American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle (2008–2018). Under the direction of Alison Carey, the plays look at moments of change in America's past.[10] Grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Collins Foundation, the Edgerton Foundation, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Trust, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation support American Revolutions. Partnerships with Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, CenterStage, Company One, Guthrie Theatre, Penumbra Theatre Company Playwrights Center, The Public Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensure that the plays will reach beyond their original OSF audience.

Through December 2014, 23 plays have been commissioned and seven of these have reached the stage, beginning with American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose (2010) season. It was followed by Ghost Light (2011); The March (2011 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Party People and All the Way (2012); The Liquid Plain by Naomi Wallace (2013); and the sequel to All the Way, The Great Society (2014, commissioned by and co-produced with Seattle Repertory Theatre). Through December 2014, All the Way has received seven awards including co-winner of the inaugural 2013 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History. The 2014 Tony Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, the Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Play, the Elliott Norton Award for Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Theatre, and the IRNE Award for Best New Play, Large Theater. In addition, the 2014 Tony Award for best actor went to Bryan Cranston for his portrayal of Lyndon Johnson in All the Way.[11]

Economic importance[edit]

In 2013, a typical year, 108,388 individuals bought 407,787 tickets, seeing an average of 3.76 plays each. Of these, 92,234 people were visitors to the area spending $54,534,565, excluding their theater tickets. Added to the $32,233,543 in actual Festival expenditures, the direct contribution to the local economy in 2013 was $86,768,108. The total contribution based on the multiplier effect brought total impact to $251,627,515.[12][13] (The multiplier effect measures how often each dollar received will be spent partly on further local goods and services. For OSF, 2.9 is the estimated multiplier.)

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival also is an active community citizen. It participates each year in Ashland's Martin Luther King celebration, Juneteenth celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Fourth of July Parade.[14] The Green Show (see above) and Hip-Hop Poetry Open Mic are free. The Daedalus Project is an annual fund-raising event managed by company members since 1988 in support of HIV/AIDS charitable organizations. It features a morning fun run, an afternoon play reading, an arts and treasures sale and an evening variety show and underwear parade.

OSF campus[edit]

A-B-Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion, C-Angus Bowmer Theatre, D-Black Swan Theatre, E-Thomas Theatre, F-Festival Courtyard, G-Administration Building, H-Group Sales Office, I-Welcome Center, J-Tudor Guild Gift Shop, K-Camps Building, L-Pioneer Building, M-Carpenter Hall, N-Bill Patton Garden, O-Brass Rubbing Center, P-Box Office

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival occupies a 4-acre (16,000 m2) campus adjacent to Lithia Park and the Plaza in Ashland, Oregon. The primary buildings are the three theatres, Carpenter Hall, and the Camps, Pioneer, and Administration buildings, all surrounding an open central court, locally known as "The Bricks" that ties the three theatres together into an architectural whole and facilitates movement. It also provides a stage for the nightly Green Shows from June through September. Other facilities include the Black Swan, which serves as a laboratory for the development of new plays, the costume shop, classrooms, and rehearsal spaces. Other buildings are off campus.

Allen Elizabethan Theatre[edit]

The Allen Elizabethan Theatre has evolved since the founding of the Shakespeare Festival when the first performance of the Twelfth Night was presented on July 2, 1935. A second outdoor theatre was built in 1947 and in October 2013 the theatre became officially known as the Allen Elizabethan Theatre.

Original Elizabethan Theatre[edit]

The design for the first outdoor OSF Elizabethan Theatre was sketched by Angus L. Bowmer based on his recollection of productions at the University of Washington in which he had acted as a student. Ashland, Oregon obtained WPA funds in 1935 to build it in the roofless shell of the abandoned Chautauqua theatre, the 12-foot-high (3.7 m) circular walls which remained after the dome had been removed. Bowmer extended the walls to reduce the stage width to fifty-five feet, and painted the extensions to resemble half-timbered buildings. He designed a thrust stage—one projecting toward the audience—with a balcony. Two columns helped divide the main stage into forestage, middle stage, and inner stage areas. Fifty cent general admission seating was on benches just behind the one dollar reserved seating on folding chairs. This theatre was torn down during World War II.[15]

Second Elizabethan Theatre[edit]

The second outdoor Elizabethan Theatre was built in 1947 from plans drawn up by University of Washington drama professor John Conway. The main stage became trapezoidal, with entries added on either side, and windows added above them flanking the balcony stage. A low railing gave a finished appearance to the forestage. Chairs arranged to improve sight lines replaced bench seating. Backstage areas were added gradually and haphazardly, until the ramshackle result was ordered torn down as a fire hazard in 1958.[15]

Current Allen Elizabethan Theatre[edit]

The outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The next year saw the opening of the current outdoor Allen Elizabethan theatre, whose name was changed to Allen Elizabethan Theatre in October, 2013.[16] Patterned on London's 1599 Fortune Theatre and designed by Richard L. Hay, it incorporated all the stage dimensions mentioned in the Fortune contract. The trapezoidal stage was retained but the façade was extended to three stories, resulting in a forestage, middle stage, inner below, inner above (the old balcony), and a musicians' gallery. The wings were provided with second-story windows. Each provides acting areas, creating many staging possibilities. A pitched, shingled roof enhances the half-timbered façade. A windowed gable was extended from the center of the roof to cover and define the middle stage. Just before each performance, an actor opens the gable window, and in keeping with Elizabethan tradition signaling a play in progress, runs a flag up the pole to the sound of a trumpet and doffs his cap to the audience.

The result is an approximate replica of the Fortune Theatre. The known but incomplete dimensions apply only to the stage. The original specifications sometimes say no more than "to be built like the Globe", for which there are no plans or details. The remotely operated lighting, on scaffolding on either side of the stage, of course did not exist in the original and the current site rather than the original architecture determines the shape of the auditorium. Twelve hundred seats in slightly offset arcs ascend the original hillside, giving an excellent view of the stage from each seat. The old Chautauqua theatre walls, now ivy-covered, remain as the outer perimeter of the theatre.

The $7.6 million Paul Allen Pavilion was added in 1992. It houses a control room, and audience services including infrared hearing devices, blankets, pillows and food and drink, which are allowed in the auditorium. Several hundred seats were moved to a balcony and two box seats, further improving sightlines and acoustics. Vomitoria (colloquially "voms"), the traditional name for entryways for actors from under the seating area, were added and the lighting scaffolds were eliminated.[17]

Each year, three plays are offered in rotation Tuesdays through Sundays in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre from late June to early October.

Angus Bowmer Theatre[edit]

Angus Bowmer Theatre in 2013

The indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival opened in 1970. It seats between 592 and 610 patrons depending on configuration. Although about half the size of the outdoor theatre, it increased audience capacity by over 100 percent by making it possible to hold matinee performances and to extend the season into spring and fall.

An April 1968 report by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research of the University of Oregon pointed to evidence of thousands of people being turned away by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival each year, noted that it had become an important economic engine for southern Oregon, and recommended addition of an indoor theatre.

The City of Ashland applied to the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce in Fall 1968 for a $1,792,000 project grant with the Angus Bowmer Theatre as the keystone. The plan also called for a parking building, a remodeled administration building and box office, a scene shop and exhibit hall that later would become the OSF Black Swan, landscaping, and street realignment. $896,000 was approved in April 1969, to match an equal amount to be raised through private donations. The fund drive quickly exceeded its goal and ground for the new theatre was broken on December 18, 1969. The building was ready just five months later and opened on May 22, 1970 with a production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, selected to recognize the Shakespearean origin of the Festival but to indicate that it also was ready to broaden its horizons by incorporating modern plays into its repertoire. Reinforcing that message, The Fantasticks and You Can’t Take it with You were the other two plays presented during that first six-week season. Fulfilling the original plan, it now offers five plays from mid-February through early November each year.

The design by Richard L. Hay with architects Kirk, Wallace and McKinley of Seattle and contractor Robert D. Morrow, Inc., Salem, Oregon was basic, functional and innovative. All seats are within 55 feet (17 m) of the stage, arranged with only two side aisles and wide spaces between rows. Dark colors resist reflection and draw the eye to the stage. The forestage is on a hydraulic lift system that can emulate the thrust stage of the OSF Allen Elizabethan Theatre, form a more conventional proscenium front, move below auditorium floor level to form an orchestra pit, or drop two stories for storage of equipment or scenery. The walls of the auditorium can swing in to close down the playing area or open to accommodate larger productions.[18]

Angus Bowmer Theatre set design by Scott Bradley for August Wilson's Fences. Photo by Jenny Graham.
Angus Bowmer Theatre set design by Christopher Acebo for The Clay Cart. Photo by Jenny Graham.

The picture on the right is the set for August Wilson's Fences. The one on the left, taken two hours later, is the set for the ancient Hindu classic The Clay Cart. Stage crews for the two indoor theatres must complete set changes of this scope between the end of a matinee and the "call" before the evening curtain (the outdoor stage changes once a day six days a week). This illustrates the nature of true repertory theater, which allows the playgoer to see different plays on the same day on the same stage, but requires designing and making sets to withstand constant rapid assembly and disassembly.

In what then Executive Director Paul Nicholson called the biggest crisis in the history of the Festival, a crack was discovered in the seventy-foot long, six and one-half foot high main ceiling support beam of the Bowmer Theatre two hours before 18 June 2011 matinee. Shows were immediately relocated to other venues as work progressed to repair the beam. A 598-seat tent, "Bowmer in the Park", was erected as a temporary replacement venue. A single set was designed and built to serve four very different shows, and the shows themselves were re-staged while keeping the artistic vision of each as intact as possible. Thirty-one performances were given in the tent and averaged 82% of capacity generating approximately $650,000 in revenue against approximately $800,000 for the tent itself, $1,000,000 in lost revenue from ticket returns, and $330,000 in repair costs to the Bowmer. The Bowmer reopened on 2 August, a month ahead of the initial estimate. The Festival filed an insurance claim for $3.58 million and received checks in March 2012 for $330,000 to cover the cost of mending the beam and $2.984 million covering much of the lost revenue and the cost of the tent, leaving only about $200,000 representing the cost of the temporary tent theater itself unresolved.[19][20][21][22][23][24]

Black Swan[edit]

The Black Swan served as the festival's third theatre from 1977 to 2001. The building, originally an automobile dealership, was bought in 1969 as a second-floor scene shop and first-floor rehearsal hall. Company members began using it to stage "midnight" readings for one another. They invited friends who brought other friends. Artistic Director Jerry Turner recognized the opportunity to take risks with unconventional staging and subjects, and called for its development as a third OSF theatre. Fitting a theatre into the existing building was challenging. It could hold only 138 seats, all within five rows of the stage. There had to be, as designer Richard Hay put it, a "certain amount of tucking and squeezing." Each director had to solve the problem of an immovable roof support in the middle of the stage. In one scene, with a horizontal piece added, it became a painting of a crucifixion. It reverted to its earlier roles as working space in 2002 when it was replaced by the New Theater. Among those roles, in 2011 it became the home for the Black Swan Lab (see above).

Thomas Theatre[edit]

The set for Macbeth, directed by Libby Appel, which was the opening performance in the Thomas Theatre.

Opened in March 2002 and originally named the New Theatre, the Thomas Theatre was renamed in 2013 as a result of a generous $4.5 million gift from a group of donors. The name is in recognition of long-time OSF development director Peter Thomas who died in March 2010. The Thomas Theatre replaced the Black Swan, which again became an ancillary building for rehearsals, meetings, and classes. The Thomas Theatre expands the possibilities for experiment and innovation while maintaining the intimacy of the Black Swan, no seat being more than six rows from the stage. Richard L. Hay designed the theatre space. Architects Thomas Hacker and Associates of Portland designed the building. Contractor was Emerick Construction, and acoustical engineering was provided by Dohn and Associates. The seats can be arranged in three configurations. In area mode, a stage of 663 square feet (61.6 m2) is surrounded on all four sides by 360 seats. In three-quarter thrust mode, a 710-square-foot (66 m2) stage is surrounded on three sides by 270 seats, and in avenue mode, a 1,236-square-foot (114.8 m2) stage provides 228 seats on two sides. There is a trap room under the stage and a fly loft at one end. A computer controls 300 circuits and over 400 lights of various types. The remainder of the building is given over to downstairs and upstairs lobbies, concessions, access distribution, archives (see below), storage, laundry, green room, quiet green room, quiet room, warm-up room, dressing space for 18 actors, showers/restrooms, costume and wig rooms, stage manager's office, maintenance space, storage for props and set pieces, and trap.[25]

Other buildings[edit]

The Box Office (P in the OSF campus diagram above) is on the same courtyard as the Thomas Theatre. The Festival acquired the Administration Building (G) in April 1967. Forming the northern boundary of the campus, the building houses the Group Sales Office (H), artistic, business, communication, education, human resources, development, community productions, and the mailroom. The Festival Welcome Center (I), on the northern side of the building facing Main Street, offers information about OSF and Ashland, houses a small rotating exhibit of costumes from past shows, and adjoins the Margery Bailey Room, otherwise known as the Education Center. The adjacent Camps Building (K) houses the members' lounge, marketing offices, and a meeting room.

Just off the courtyard, the Pioneer Building (L) houses the Festival's costume and costume props shop. The staff of over 60 creates the costumes in three main studios on the lower floor of the building.[3] Also on that floor are offices and fitting rooms for the costume designers and costume design assistants, a costume props area and a vented paint room. Upstairs is a dye room, lounge, laundry, storage room, and office. During the height of the costume production each season, another working studio is open in the basement of the Angus Bowmer Theatre.

The Festival acquired Carpenter Hall (M) in October 1973, renovating it to accommodate lectures, concerts, rehearsals, meetings and Festival and community events. The Bill Patton Garden (N) provides the venue for informal summer noon talks by OSF staff. The Tudor Guild, a separate non-profit corporation, operates the Tudor Guild Gift Shop (J) and Brass Rubbing Center (O) where visitors can make rubbings of facsimiles of 55 historic English brasses under expert guidance. Just off campus, a purpose-equipped fitness center is staffed by two professional trainers who help prepare actors for physically demanding roles that often require acrobatics, fights, and pratfalls.

Inside the new production facility of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The Festival completed a $7.2 million purpose-built 71,544-square-foot (6,646.7 m2) production facility in neighboring Talent, Oregon, in November 2013. The building houses custom-designed technologically advanced set and prop construction and scene painting facilities. The scene shop has an extensive pit area that precisely duplicates the trap doors in the theaters themselves, allowing for precise sizing, testing of assembly and disassembly, and automating elevator cues. Lighting in the painting areas duplicates that in the theaters, guaranteeing desired colors. The building also houses OSF's costume rental business, which has over 50,000 costumes and over 15,000 costume props such as armor, crowns, and wigs available for rent by other theaters, television and movie producers, and corporations. The combined staff numbers 40 people.[26]


OSF is a non-profit corporation managed under US and Oregon law by a 32-member Board of Directors nominated and elected for eight-year terms. OSF is supported in part by corporate and individual donors through direct support of individual plays and annual non-voting memberships. These are offered at nine levels, each with its own privileges and, from the fifth level on, a series of special events. The Bowmer Society partially supports the educational programs described below. Finally, those who have included the Festival in their wills can become members of the Southampton Society, which hosts its own annual weekend event. The endowment had a net worth in excess of $30 million that returns about $1.2 million to support the annual operating budget. It is managed by seven trustees who are selected for five-year terms by the Board of Directors.[27]

Professional staff[edit]

OSF is organized into administrative, artistic, education, and production staffs.

The administrative staff of approximately 125 is supervised by Executive Director Cynthia Rider. The Director of Finance and Administration supervises the physical plant (custodial services, maintenance, and security), accounting, mail room, and receptionists. The Director of Marketing and Communication supervises the box office, membership services, archives (see below), publications and media, marketing, and audience services, which itself includes house managers, ushers, concessions, and access staff for handicapped patrons (see below). The Director of Development supervises institutional giving and major gifts. The Director of ITS manages information technology. The Director of Human Resources supervises human resources, volunteer and events programs (see below), safety, and a professional development program called FAIR (Fellowships, Assistantships, Internships, and Residencies) that provides opportunities for the next generation of theater professionals to learn best practices across all aspects of professional theater. Fellows work directly with senior management while expanding their personal networks. Three residencies varying from four to eleven months are exclusive to the Dramaturgy and Literary Management Department. Assistantships. Twenty five to 30 Assistantships annually provide hands-on opportunities in virtually every area of the organization for emerging artists and aspiring arts administrators by pairing recipients with an appropriate OSF staff member for an average of three months. Finally, 15-20 unpaid internships of two to four months annually provide emerging artists and administrators with hands-on experience by pairing them with a Festival staff member in the assistant's area of interest. Internships may fulfill academic requirements determined by respective applicants academic institution Internships, housing and travel are not provided.[28]

Artistic Director Bill Rauch directly and indirectly supervises a staff consisting of approximately 450. The Artistic Director selects the plays and directors for each season, and chooses the actors, who number between 90 and 120, and the musicians and dancers who number approximately 25. The Artistic Director also supervises the Fight Director, Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy, Voice and Text Department, the Associate Producer for the Green Show (see above), and the Director of the U.S. History Cycle (see above). An Associate Artistic Director supervises scenic, lighting, and costume design.

At any given moment, the artistic staff of approximately 100 permanent and temporary staff. It is under the direction of an artistic director and includes an associate artistic director, composers, choreographers, dramaturges, designers and design assistants, directors and assistant directors, and voice and text director.

The production staff of approximately 125 is responsible for costumes, lighting, properties, scenery, sound, and stage operations. Costumes are produced by a staff of about 60 (artisans, cutters, designers, dyers, first hands, hair and wig specialists, stitchers, technicians, and wardrobe managers). Scenery is built by a staff of technicians, carpenters, a welder, an engineer and a buyer and moved by a crew of 24 stagehands; lighting staff number eight, and sound and properties each are managed by staffs of six each. A production stage manager, eight stage managers and three production managers ensure the smooth operation of the three theatres and a deck manager coordinates the Green Show.

The education staff, reflecting the profession of Festival founder Angus Bowmer, a professor of English at Southern Oregon Normal School (now Southern Oregon University), has played an important role at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from its inception. The full-time staff includes the director, both in-residence and outreach program managers and coordinators, a curriculum specialist, and resident teaching artists. The goal is to inspire a lifelong relationship to theater and the works of Shakespeare by offering educational experiences that support each season's plays to a diverse range of students, teachers, and audiences.[29]

The initial focus was on college students and the Institute for Renaissance Studies was formed to meet their needs. The Festival offered short courses, lectures, readings, concerts, and exhibits focused on the plays of the season. Participation was open to all Festival company members and audiences, either for college credit from several universities, or for audit. Coursework is supported by a collection of Renaissance and late-medieval books, manuscripts, and prints now housed in the Southern Oregon University's Hannon Library.

The completion of the indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre in 1971 and the subsequent expansion of the Festival season to nine months enabled an increasing variety of educational programs for middle and high school students. Students visiting the Festival are the recipients of approximately 55,000 discounted tickets each year. Some 900 workshops offered by OSF actor-teachers enhance the educational value of their visits. The Bowmer Project for Student Playgoers (initiated 1996) provides local teachers with workshops to prepare them to teach plays and tickets to a performance, a back-stage tour, and a post-show discussion with one of the actors. Each year since 1981, OSF has offered a residential Summer Seminars for High School Juniors that enrolls 65 students in a two-week program that addresses on-stage technique and theatre management. For those unable to come to the Festival, six pairs of actors participate in the School Visit Program now reaches some 60,000 students a year in four states. Each one-day visit includes two 50-minute performances and one two-hour or two one-hour workshops. Performances are a condensed version of one Shakespeare play, selected scenes from Shakespeare illustrating a single theme, or a combination of Shakespeare and other literature.[30]

Programs specifically for teachers include the weekend "Inside Shakespeare" and the five-day retreat, "Shakespeare in the Classroom" that emphasizes innovative and pedagogical methods to help teachers make the works of Shakespeare involving and accessible to contemporary students.[31]

Educational programs of varying length and formality for the public include Wake Up With Shakespeare, Shakespeare Comprehensive, Festival Noons, Prefaces, Prologues, Park Talks, and "Unfolding Seminars."[32]

Finally, OSF's Development Department also offers educational opportunities through its tours offered in late Fall. Past tours have included two to England, which have focused on Shakespeare, and a tour to Greece and Turkey, providing glimpses of the history of theater. These tours feature workshops and lectures with OSF staff and actors, as well as visits to local attractions.

Access department[edit]

The Audience Services offers a full range of programs and services for patrons with disabilities. For blind and visually impaired patrons, the Festival has six professional audio describers on staff who provide live audio description for every performance of every play with two weeks advance notice. Braille and large print playbills are available for all productions. Service animals are always welcome. For deaf and hearing-impaired patrons, six American Sign Language interpreted performances with highly trained interpreters are offered each season. Complimentary infrared listening devices and Telecoil hearing aid loops are available in all three of the Festival's theatres, and patrons may communicate with the Festival through the Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service. There is accessible seating in all performance venues, nearby accessible parking, and all of the above accommodations can be provided for the wide range of ancillary events that enrich the OSF experience, such as backstage tours, prefaces, prologues, and park talks. Each season a limited number of performances, post-show meet-and-greets, pre-show introductions, and backstage tours are open-captioned in Spanish.[33]


OSF's archivists develop, preserve, and maintain a comprehensive collection of documents and oral histories, drawings and photographs, audio and video recordings, and artifacts pertaining to the artistic and administrative history and heritage of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Collecting, organizing, and preserving these materials of what otherwise is an ephemeral art form to archival standards is an ongoing effort aided in part by a two-year grant from the National Historical Publications and Research Commission, with more material added on an ongoing basis.

The archives are open Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM, and the staff invites any inquiry or reference question by phone or email. Researchers and the general public are welcome to visit the archives by appointment. Other collections are available for research, although some collections have restrictions, and permission must be obtained for their use.[34][35][36]

The Archives include Education department records from 1947 and document the department's programming and structural evolution. Print materials include annual reports, brochures, calendars, correspondence, course handouts, course readings, news clippings, newsletters, photographs, posters, scripts, statistics and survey reports, study guides, and teacher information kits, guides, and resource kits. Audio and video recordings include radio broadcasts and school visit program performances.

In May, 2013, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the Festival a $200,000 grant to digitize 2649 deteriorating tapes, films and videos and to make them publicly available through its website and the YouTube platform. The collection spans the history of the Festival from its inception in 1935 through 2012 and comprises an unparalleled and comprehensive record of Shakespearean and theatrical performance by a single U.S. theatre company. Included are full-length recordings of 541 of the 570 Festival productions from 1950 to 2012, including three or more varied interpretations of every play in the Shakespearean canon with exemplary casts before live audiences and the ballad opera series. The production recordings are supplemented by 44 adaptations broadcast on NBC radio, more than 100 hours of artist interviews, Shakespeare lectures by nationally and internationally renowned scholars and educators, production music, promotional recordings, and recordings of significant events in the company's history.[37] Also included are the home movies of founder Angus Bowmer, Southern Oregon Normal School events and rare footage of the initial 1935 Festival season!


Nearly 700 volunteers contribute approximately 32,000 hours each year (the equivalent of 350 full-time employees) at a myriad of regular and occasional tasks. Tudor Guild volunteers staff the brass rubbing center, concession stands, and gift shop. Volunteers welcome visitors to the campus and answer their questions, staff the Green Show information table and welcome center, facilitate post-matinee discussions, provide concierge services for student groups, and supplement the professional ushers at all three theatres. Behind the scenes, volunteers help with office tasks such as preparing will-call tickets for pickup, sorting mail, filing, copying, mailings, and transcribing interviews. They work in the Archives, Costume Shop, Costume warehouse, and Scene Shop, help with auditions, and serve as attendants in the company fitness facility. Among occasional tasks too numerous to provide a complete list, volunteers assist with access services and the tri-annual audience surveys, drive company vehicles for visiting dignitaries and direct traffic during "strike" at the end of the season. Each year, company members present a thank you show titled Love's Labors for the volunteers.


Artistic directors[edit]

Executive directors[edit]

  • William Patton (c.1955–95)
  • Paul E. Nicholson (1995–2012)
  • Cynthia Rider (2013– )


All playgoers receive a Playbill with a synopsis of the plays, cast lists, and directors' statements. All members receive Prologue each season. This magazine contains selected articles on directors, actors, costumes, props, and plays each season. Another publication that is made available at higher donor levels is Illuminations, a comprehensive guide to each year's plays. Illuminations includes synopses, themes, information on playwrights and historical and other contextual information.[38] Each year, the Festival publishes Teachers First! that provides information on the season's plays including age suitability, the seasonal calendar, ordering and discount information.

The annual Souvenir Program. includes photographic highlights of each play and special articles along with pictures and biographies of actors, playwrights, and the many people who work behind the scenes. A chart emphasizing the repertory nature of OSF lists all the actors and their parts in the plays.

Professional memberships[edit]

OSF is a constituent of Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization for the not-for-profit theatre world, and a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America. It operates under contracts with Actors' Equity Association, The Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Inc., an independent national labor union.


Plays premiering at OSF include a 2007 musical adaptation of William Saroyan's Tracy's Tiger, and a 2012 production of All the Way.

2015 season[edit]

The 2015 season includes the following:[39]

Plays presented in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre:

Plays presented in the Angus Bowmer Theatre

Plays presented in the Thomas Theatre


  1. ^ "OSF Announces New Green Show". Ashland Daily Tidings. 2008-05-31. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  2. ^ Varbel Bill. (2008). "Many Colors in Newly Revamped Green Show". Ashland Daily Tidings. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  3. ^ a b "The People of OSF: Our Company Members". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  4. ^ Gregio, Marcus (2004). Shakespeare Festivals Around the World. Xlibris Corporation. 
  5. ^ Murphy, M. (2005). The Stage is Set for a Meteoric Success. A Tradition of Shakespeare 1935–2005. Ashland Daily Tidings. 
  6. ^ a b angus bowmer (1904–1979), Oregon Shakespeare Festival
  7. ^ Oregon Shakespeare Festival Archives. Used with the permission of Amy Richard, Media Relations, OSF: media@osfashland.org
  8. ^ Darling, John (August 2, 2010). "This is OSF...on NBC". Ashland Daily Tidings. 
  9. ^ Zoglin, Richard (May 27, 2003). "Bigger than Broadway!". Time. Retrieved May 30, 2008. 
  10. ^ "OSF Sets New AMERICAN REVOLUTIONS Commissions". April 30, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  11. ^ "12 Stars Who Won Tony Awards for their Broadway Debut Performances". May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Press Releases and Information". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  13. ^ Cwi, D. (1977). Economic Impacts of Arts and Cultural Institutions. National Endowment for the Arts. 
  14. ^ "4th of July Celebration". Ashland Chamber of Commerce. 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-23. 
  15. ^ a b Bowmer, Angus (1978). Shreds and Patches: The Ashland Elizabethan Stage. Ashland, Oregon: Oregon Shakespeare Association. OCLC 6040869. 
  16. ^ "The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Awards OSF $3,000,000 Grant". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  17. ^ Oregon Shakespearean Festival Association. Shakespeare 1970. Ashland, Oregon: Oregon Shakespearean Festival Association, 1970.
  18. ^ Oregon Shakespearean Festival Association. Stage II. Ashland, Oregon: Oregon Shakespearean Festival Association, 1970
  19. ^ Galvin, R (July 17, 2011). "Bowmer Re-opening for August 2". Medford Mail Tribune. Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  20. ^ Hathaway, Brad (August 2, 2011). "Temporary Nomads with Tent No More". Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  21. ^ Hayden, D. "Bowmer in the Park: Anatomy of a Crisis". Ashland, Oregon: Sneak Preview 22, 9. 
  22. ^ Hugely, Marty (August 2, 2011). "Oregon Shakespeare Festival Re-opens Bowmer Theatre, and Tallies the Losses". Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  23. ^ Wheeler, Sam (July 8, 2011). "'Bowmer in the Park' Begins". Ashland Daily Tidings. Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  24. ^ Wheeler, Sam (March 10, 2012). "OSF collects $2.6 million in insurance from Bowmer closure". Ashland Daily Tidings. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  25. ^ Conrad, Chris (17 March 2012). "’New’ No More". Retrieved 2012-11-10. 
  26. ^ Kent, Roberta (March 17, 2014). "OSF's Production Facility in Talent Is Complete". Ashland Daily Tidings. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  27. ^ Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2007 Souvenir Program. Ashland, Oregon: Oregon Shakespeare Festival (pages 64-107)
  28. ^ FAIR, retrieved July 2, 2015 
  29. ^ About Us, retrieved July 2, 2015 
  30. ^ Education, retrieved July 2, 2015 
  31. ^ Training Opportunities for Teachers, retrieved July 2, 2015 
  32. ^ Public Events and Classes, retrieved July 2, 2015 
  33. ^ "Accessibility Services" (PDF). Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  34. ^ "Our History". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  35. ^ "Archives". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  36. ^ "Oregon Shakespeare Festival Archives". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  37. ^ "$200,000 NEH Grant Supports Digitization". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  38. ^ http://www.osfashland.org/membership/about/supporting.aspx Donor Benefits
  39. ^ "2015 Season Announced". Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°11′46″N 122°42′54″W / 42.1962°N 122.7151°W / 42.1962; -122.7151