Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shakespeare, Moliere, and Leaves of Gold

For my birthday, my wonderful wife Alison took me to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. We first went to the festival on our honeymoon, in 1985. Then we stayed in a KOA campground in a pup tent staked out on a thriving ant hill. This time we stayed at Plaza Inn. No ants, but we did bring Prince Henry the Navigator, our cocker spaniel.

Friday night we saw As You Like It, set in the American Depression, or at least that’s what it said. It seemed to veer from Guys and Dolls New York to an Aw Shucks Appalachia. The country parts were trying to be Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, but without the great music and without George Clooney. They did keep the original Shakespearean dialog, and the actors tried. It was enjoyable just being back in the Agnus Bowmer Theatre, and watching a good cast, but it didn’t really work.

Saturday, however, was amazing. We saw Tartuffe, by Moliere, and it was magnificent. The set was great, the cast amazing, the entire production sizzled. Anthony Heald played Tartuffe, and I had seen him play Richard the Third a year ago. A really great, over the top, unapologetic bad guy. Evil and loving every minute of it.

The set designers left their pyrotechnics for the Sun King scene at the end. Flying scepters and spinning orbs, giant tapestries of the sun, a brilliant on stage costume change into golden splendor. No wonder Louis XIV lifted the ban that the state and church had put on the play. And no wonder the Archbishop of Paris threatened to excommunicate anyone who attended a performance.

The weather was perfect. Upper 60’s with a crisp blue sky, and all the trees red and gold. Ashland is a fun, and conflicted, town. Is it a university town, a theater town, a hippy town, a yuppie retirement town, or a town of drunks and beggars? All of the above.

Saturday the streets were full of demonstrators saying “Honk for Impeachment.” If only it were that easy…

More Pictures.