Founded in 1935 by Angus L. Bowmer, the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is considered to be one of the oldest and largest professional not-for-profit theatres in the United States.
The organisation’s season runs from February through early November and includes productions at three separate theatres.
The locations include two indoor stages, the Angus Bowmer Theatre and the Thomas Theatre, and their flagship outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, which presents plays from early June and through mid-October. During their season they offer 11 different plays. Typically the season includes three or four productions that were penned by the Bard and seven by other classic writers, modern and contemporary work and often a world premier piece each season.
The beginning of the Festival can be traced back to the 1900s when Ashland’s first Chautauqua building was built. The building was large enough to accommodate 1,500 patrons and families would travel from all over Southern Oregon and Northern California to see performances there. In 1917, a round, dome-covered building replaced the original structure. However, it soon fell into disrepair and was torn down. All that remained of the building were the cement walls that still stand today as part of the Allen Elizabethan Theatre.
Angus L. Bowmer, who at the time was a young teacher at what is now Southern Oregon University…
Recognised the similarities between the walls and some that he had seen of Elizabethan theatres in London. He developed and proposed the idea of producing an annual Shakespearean festival to run in conjunction with the City of Ashland’s Fourth of July celebration. The city, not entirely on board with the idea, advanced Bowmer funds to provide a construction crew to build the state and improve the grounds for the festival. In 1935, the Oregon Shakespearean Festival presented its first production of The Twelfth Night. At the time of the first show reserved seats cost $1 and general admission was $.50. Not only was the production well received, but the Festival covered all of its own expenses with the ticket sales and an annual tradition was born.
To learn more about the Festival’s current and upcoming seasons, go to osfashland.org.