Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ashland roundup

My mom and I returned on Thursday from a brief sojourn to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a place where my theater world has been severely rocked in the past. A particular memory is seeing, at age 14, Pirandello's Enrico IV starring the late Rex Rabold which blew the poop out of me. It was so amazing and riveting even compared to the near death river rafting experience I had added to my life history only a couple days before. I had the same thumping in my heart after both experiences.

This year, the amazing dinners and company at the house we were staying at were vastly more interesting than the plays we saw. Not to say the plays we saw were bad (Bus Stop, Intimate Apparel, and Two Gentlemen of Verona). In fact the acting, direction, and writing was good in all of them (good writing with the exception, perhaps, of Two Gentlemen of Verona). But the productions were just kind of there. Flat. Unurgent. Intimate Apparel featured my favorite script and some great performances, probably my favorite of the trio and employed some nice use of hydraulics. I really loved the language and beauty of the story. Even so, it, all of em were no poop-blowing theater experiences. Nothing felt very passionate, went for the gut. I'm partial to gut-going theater and this was just a little quiet, automatic, lacking in any sense of vip for my taste. It all felt very, very, um, professional. My ho hummness may be due to the atmosphere of Ashland, which is somewhere between ACT and Disneyland. It also may be due to some bad crampy stomach issues the first day we saw plays. What's up with my stomach? That's another blog post.

The dinners featured fresh borsht and sauteed beet greens too, buffalo, lamb, sausage, multiple elaborate salads, and a new champagne cocktail that my mom really enjoyed. Stories circulated about being in the army with Richard Schechner, how Spalding Gray wrote his first-ever monologue based on one of the houseguests, Mexican drug cartels in Oregon, Being shot at while drilling a well, Illicit meeting in the 60s and 70s outside City Lights Bookstore, journeys from Germany to the south in '64, and the growing industry of decorative boulders. Not to mention there was some interesting dynamics and gentle tension occasionally politely currenting through the table.

All this to say that my trip to Ashland with my mom was mostly enjoyable because, it was a trip to Ashland with my mom. Our almost theme park style theater experiences, the whole reason for going, only seemed to be second fiddle to the wonderful company, beautiful scenery, and various meats grilling on the mesquite.


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