June 23, 2007

Ashland 2007 – Day One

We were privileged to be able to spend another long weekend in Ashland for our annual visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The drive down here was so uneventful that I don't remember much of it at all. Talking books and good weather can do that.

We're staying in the Shrew's House, a bed and breakfast along Siskiyou Blvd. This is the first time in a B&B in several years and, interestingly, the first season for the proprietors, too. Last year, they were making their annual visit to Ashland, and staying across the street, when they needed an extra night, so they tried this place. As it happened, the place was for sale and, one thing leading to another, they bought it and moved here four months ago. Nice folks.

Staying here at the same time is another set of nice folks, a pair of couples who have been coming to Ashland for decades. They've been staying in this B&B for ten years. We've had some nice breakfast table conversations and, in one of the nice elements of a B&B stay, the owners will sit down and join us, too.

As for theater, our first day was an excellent start. The afternoon play was Tracy's Tiger, in the New Theater, put together by a collaboration of OSF folks from a novella by William Saroyan. I love Saroyan and have learned to trust adaptations and translations that they do here, so I was eager to see it and was not disappointed. There was great music, wonder, philosophy, and it affected me deeply. The notion of people "having" tigers, as we have a shadow on a sunny day, following them around and representing their bolder nature, made for excellent theater. I loved the characters of Nimmo & the psychiatrist, both played by Michael Hume and every time the bird started to sing, I teared up. I loved the play and the performances.

The evening's entertainment was The Tempest, in the Elizabethan Theater. This is a beautiful and complex play, superbly done. Derrick Lee Weeden makes a powerful Prospero. He speaks so clearly and acts so smoothly that new layers of the text become available. The theme of slavery was strongly and expertly developed, with Calaban (played by Dan Donohue, in a welcome return to the OSF) brutally constrained and tormented, as befits the greater fear Prospero has of the earth and the solid. Ariel, though more gently constrained and motivated also by love for her master, still chafes at her bondage, though her master values her gifts more highly, matching as they do his own predilections.

Our restaurant theme this year is to eat in new places this time. For Thursday night, the night we arrived, that was Pasta Piatti, a "new world Italian" place on the main drag. We'd walked by it many times, so this time we went in. We had a very nice meal with friendly, professional, informal service. Recommended.

Friday, between plays, we had dinner at the Peerless Restaurant. It's more expensive, but with the garden table on a nice evening, very friendly greetings, excellent service, and wonderful food (with espresso to finish!). Literally peerless? I’m not sure, but I'd have to put it near the top of the list for meals we've had in this town.

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