Hype and Circumstance

Jun 18, 2011 | 0 comments

At The Green Show

     When you live in Oysterville, or anywhere else on the Long Beach Peninsula for that matter, you are sensitive to the nuances of tourism.  Businesses succeed or fail, friends are employed or not, real estate sales move or stagnate, and it is all tied directly or indirectly to the tourism industry.          
     That is also the case here in Ashland, Oregon, where we visit each year to take in the plays and enjoy the general ambiance.  In this idyllic little town, prosperity is all tied up with the success of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that has made this its headquarters since Angus Bowmer mounted his first play back in 1935.  So, it is with some confusion that we see many businesses closed along the main drag, Siskiyou Boulevard, and yet read that OSF is experiencing record crowds.
     According to their publicity, the Festival is doing well.  Last year the three theaters played to 94% seating capacity and brought in eighteen and a half million dollars in revenue.  But apparently the record-breaking crowds were not spreading the wealth in the trendy restaurants and boutiques of the town.  According to shopkeepers and other Ashland residents, the economic turndown has hit hard.
     Our own observations have been mixed.  The musicians at the Green Shows each evening are playing to capacity crowds.  However, the shows are free.  They occur just before the evening performances, and though they used to be tied into the theatrical offerings, they are now totally eclectic and apparently random.
     Last night it was a Mexican Folklorica group from Hillsboro.  There was also a mobile taco stand parked nearby.  Many families with young children came to eat and see the Green Show.  They were mostly townspeople; theater-goers among the crowd seemed to be in the minority.
     At “Henry IV, Part Two” we all but had the balcony at the Elizabethan theater to ourselves.  From what we could see, the orchestra seating was close to capacity, but the theater as a whole couldn’t have approached last year’s much-touted 94% figure.  It was the first time in all my years of coming to Ashland that I had experienced such a phenomenon.  That it was occurring in the outdoor theater, the cornerstone of OSF, was hard to believe.
     Tonight, “The Pirates of Penzance” will be playing there.  Pirates are hot right now – at least according to the kids I worked with recently at Long Beach School.  I wonder if they will draw what Prince Hal could not.  Gilbert & Sullivan outdrawing Shakespeare?  I’m not sure how the economic turndown and the woes of Ashland’s business district tie into all that.  But I’m sure they do… and I’m sorry


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