Ashland, OR Archives

July 18, 2008

Shakespeare Under The Stars


I am back in Oregon for the first time since 1992 (when I got a speeding ticket here while driving from Seattle down the coast to Los Angeles). It was tough to get out of the Bay Area, with lots of traffic slowing me down before what was already a long drive. I traveled through wildfire country in northern California, and the air was thick with smoky haze.

I arrived in Ashland later than expected and consequently missed the first hour of The Comedy Of Errors in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the country's most prominent regional theaters. This particular production was set as a western, with a bit of music added into the mix. It worked pretty well within the madcap framework of the play and generally the show was quite entertaining.

July 19, 2008

Behind The Scenes At OSF


I took the backstage tour at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this morning, which was an illuminating couple of hours learning how things work in this theater company. Ashland itself is a scenic town just north of the California border, with a nice mix of shops and eateries--quaint without being precious. The actual playhouses are impressive: an outdoor 1200-seat theater with a based on the Tudor original building in London called The Fountain. Then there's a modern 600-seat indoor theater called the Bowmer. And finally The New Theater is a black box that can be configured all sorts of ways for a small audience. The OSF puts on almost a dozen plays each season, mixing Shakespeare productions with American classics and some experimental works.

Living Up To The Hype


Wow. I just saw a matinee screening of The Dark Knight. This is a staggeringly good film, one that lives up to some of the over-the-top positive reviews it has been getting. The late Heath Ledger deserves the kudos he has received for his portrayal of The Joker, but the whole cast is good: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and especially Aaron Eckhardt as Harvey Dent. The visuals are terrific and the thematic elements hold together quite well. Good stuff!


Black And White


I saw Othello tonight at the OSF outdoor theater (it's pretty cool to see the sun going down in the hills behind the stage as the action of the play unfolds). The actor playing Iago was especially excellent, delivering a deliciously manipulative and malevolent presence. I had seen this play staged once before, in modern dress, in the Paul Mellon Arts Center back at Choate about five years ago. Perhaps because I've gotten more immersed in the works of Shakespeare since then, I came away from this performance with a lot more appreciation of the work.

July 20, 2008

All Things Watchmen


I've taught the graphic novel Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, for about a decade now in my course The Use And Abuse Of Power. Of course, I read it as it came out in monthly installments when I was in college, too. But the work is getting a massive dose of hype now as a filmed version is getting prepped for a 2009 release. The cover of the new Entertainment Weekly features the movie cast in its Comic-Con-themed issue.

In addition, you can see a pretty intriguing trailer for the Watchmen film in all sorts of different formats here.

And, as if that's not enough, there's a "motion comics" version of the graphic novel available on iTunes here (the first installment is free for a limited time).

August 24, 2009

In The Loop


Had a great flight from Denver to Medford, Oregon--"over the rockpile," as the pilot referred to the Rocky Mountains. There was one weird aspect to it, though: the older woman sitting next to me was working her way through the latest Sookie Sackhouse novel and I began to notice a faint whispering to my right: she was very, very quietly reading aloud, as if this was the only way she could read a book. Strange, and slightly annoying. Out came the earbuds and iPod.

Once I arrived in Medford, picked up my rental car and made the short drive down to Ashland. Once settled in, I noticed that In The Loop was playing at the downtown cinema and so I went to a late afternoon showing. This is a laugh-out-loud funny look at politics in London and Washington. The "Malcolm Tucker" character was simply hilarious. Recommended.

August 25, 2009

Something Wicked This Way Comes


I am in Ashland to see a bunch of plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the second year in a row--I drove up here when I finished up at Stanford last July and fell in love with the bucolic town nestled in the foothills and the chance to see so much theater in one place.

This afternoon was a matinee of Macbeth. This production worked well because of the strength of the two lead actors, I thought. Peter Macon--whom I saw portray Othello in 2008--was effective in the title role and Robin Goodrin Nordli was especially good as his ambitious wife.

A Little More Ado


I first saw Much Ado About Nothing in a castle courtyard in Oxford in 2008, and again this past July in Staunton, Virginia. Tonight's OSF show was the grandest production of Much Ado I've seen staged, and appropriately so for the open-air Elizabethan Stage here in Ashland. At first I didn't quite buy this particular Benedick--he seemed outmatched by the very impressive Beatrice--but I was won over by this particular pair by halfway through. The play was set in Sicily in 1945, which made the witty interplay between the two seem like it was lifted from a Hepburn/Tracy screwball comedy.

August 26, 2009

All's Well Once More


I just saw All's Well That Ends Well ten days before in London, so today's stripped-down, small-theater version at the OSF inevitably suffered in comparison to the National Theatre's lauded production with a large cast and spectacular staging. While the latter emphasized the "fairy tale" aspects of this play, today's production certainly imposed a happy ending in the final moments of the show. with "home video" scenes of Bertram and Hero and their young son at play years later. An interesting (if not entirely convincing) attempt to solve the "problem" of this problem play.

Shakespeare's Last Play


The chance to see Henry VIII--a rarely-staged play in the Shakespeare canon--was really what attracted me back to Ashland this summer. The production was full of pageantry and spectacle and though its closing scenes seemed to derail the drama that had built up earlier, the final tableau of (Queen-to-be) Elizabeth's christening was a fitting coda for a body of work closely associated with the Elizabethan era.

August 25, 2009

R.I.P. Senator Ted Kennedy


Sad news from Cape Cod this evening, as it was announced that Ted Kennedy passed away tonight after a brave fight against cancer. This was not a surprising development, and yet the news of his death hit pretty hard. The Massachusetts icon blossomed in recent decades as "the Lion of the Senate" and for someone born into great privilege, he was consistently a champion of the underdogs in society. He shall be missed.

August 24, 2009

Snow Leopard Arriving Early


The forthcoming update to Mac OS X is shipping at the end of the week--a month early! Sweet. Already got my copy ordered from Amazon--I save four bucks and get it with free two-day shipping as an Amazon Prime member.

August 27, 2009

Amusing Nugget Of The Day

The most recent GQ published a feature on "America's 25 Douchiest Colleges." Here is one choice entry:

Click in the slideshow on this site to see the whole thing.

August 26, 2009

Shakespeare Under The Stars


Heading to the Elizabethan Stage here in Ashland for the second straight night. This is a spectacular outdoor theater. On a nice summer night like this one, it's a treat to begin an 8 p.m. show in the remaining sunlight and have a canopy of stars overhead by intermission.

August 27, 2009

Trouble, Right Here In River City


After four Shakespeare plays in two days at the OSF, today brings something of a break from Elizabethan theater. This afternoon I saw a matinee of The Music Man, a traditional American musical. This was a polished production, and a much better show than I remembered.

A Brilliant Play


Wow. Equivocation is a new play that explores playwright William Shagspeare (using one of the various spellings of the Bard's name) being commissioned by royal authorities to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot (e.g., Guy Fawkes and company trying to blow up Parliament in 1605). This play touches on so many provocative topics: the nature of theater and of history, the interplay between Shakespeare's acting troupe and the court, and political power in Jacobean England, just to name a few. This was a tremendous production of a truly excellent piece of work.

August 17, 2010

Returning To Ashland


I am back in southern Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland for a third straight summer. I will see five plays here this week before flying home early Friday morning. Ashland is a beautiful town nestled into the hills and boasting world-class theatrical offerings.

A Most Impressive Prince Of Denmark


Hamlet was presented as a matinee offering at the OSF today. The production was first-rate (though perhaps I would quibble with the choice of rappers presenting "The Mousetrap" play-within-a-play) and Dan Donohue's work in the lead role was positively stunning. This was as good a portrayal of the Danish prince as I've seen. Full stop. I expected good things from Donohue, have seen his excellent Iago in 2008's Othello in the OSF's Elizabethan Theatre, but was unprepared for just how masterful his Hamlet would be. Ample support from a strong Polonius and a very good Ophelia, too.

Prince Hal And Falstaff


Henry IV Part 1 is one of the Shakespeare plays I know best. Having seen a production in London just a few weeks ago with the best Falstaff I have yet seen, I was ready to be disappointed with this show, but there were some very strong elements in it worthy of praise, especially in the form of a compelling performance in the Hotspur role. Not everything the OSF stages is necessarily a triumph, but I have yet to see anything bad here.

August 18, 2010

Macbeth Via Kurosawa


The OSF's Throne Of Blood is a staged adaptation of the Kurosawa film which was loosely fashioned from the story of Macbeth. This tale of murder and mayhem was set in samurai culture and was a very effective piece of theater. The costumes were particularly stunning. Like "that Scottish play" this production was short (about 1 hour, 40 minutes with no intermission) but powerful.



Tonight was my second Merchant Of Venice of the summer and this one did not disappoint. Though I've seen better Bassanios, the OSF's Shylock was first-rate. Lots of good energy and appropriate pathos assembled in this production.

August 19, 2010

A Sublime Comedy


If one is going to see a Shakespearean comedy under the summertime night sky, Twelfth Night (like A Midsummer Night's Dream) has to be at the top of the list. This was a particularly funning evening of theater and made good use of the material with some inventive staging and production values.

August 18, 2010

Today's Cincy Line-Up

The matches on tap for today in the Cincinnati Masters event feature all of the top players in the world: Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray etc.

This reminds me of my first visit to the Stratton Mountain ATP event in 1986, when I saw all the headliners play in sequence on the stadium court: Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe (against his doubles partner Peter Fleming), and then top-tenner Tim Mayotte against an unknown 16-year-old named Andre Agassi. Hearing the name, I expected some Swiss journeyman to show up on court. When he was introduced as a teenaged Las Vegan training at Bollettiieri's, I thought he would be cannon fodder for Mayotte. But that match turned out to be Agassi's breakthrough win and the tournament was his breakthrough event (he lost to McEnroe a couple rounds later but was on everyone's radar as a future star at that point).

August 19, 2010

Another Argument For MobileMe


I use Apple's Notes program extensively, especially in a mobile capacity on the iPad and iPhone. But syncing my notes was always dependent on physically connecting to my home iMac via iTunes. Until now. I moved all my notes files--which generally are associated with a specific e-mail account, it turns out--to MobileMe, so each iOS 4 device can be synced wirelessly with the cloud. Works brilliantly with the iPhone already and it should when the iPad gets the updated operating system this fall.

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