As any high school student can tell you, trying to muddle through the Bard’s prose by only reading the text is simply asking thouself for plenty of ye olde trouble, or at least some old-fashioned confusion.
But if you’re able to hear the dialogue spoken, then it usually becomes an entirely different experience. You can enjoy the rich texture of wordplay, the twists and turns of the stories, the detailed and memorable characters, and the raw emotion that emerges, whether comedy or tragedy.
“Hamlet,” for instance, can be downright dull and dreadful as a script about moody people unhappy about their family dynamics. But when performed – even by Mel Gibson — you can begin to understand the writer’s brilliance. Even movies that re-tell a Shakespeare story in modern settings, such as “Ten Things I Hate About You,” set in a 1990s high school, can become laugh-out-loud romantic comedies that anyone can appreciate.
For those who already enjoy Shakespeare or at least might be willing to give him and his works another chance, we encourage you to check out the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a nationally-renowned repertory company located in Ashland, Ore., that celebrates The Bard all year round.
Since 1935, the OSF, near the California border on the Interstate 5 corridor, has offered a variety of performances from February to November. In recent years, more than 410,000 people have enjoyed 11 different shows each season. Half are usually by Shakespeare and others are usually more contemporary but still entertaining shows.
The shows are presented in three different theaters, some indoor and some outdoor in the traditional ‘in the round’ style like the original Globe.
These productions make Shakespeare accessible to all audiences, which he likely would be proud of, since he wrote his plays specifically to appeal to all levels of society, not just the elite.
When you’re done with the show, be sure to stick around and check out the City of Ashland. It isn’t necessarily a themed town in terms of Elizabethan architecture and everyone in period costumes, but a nicely laid-back community containing beautiful parks, fun coffee shops, unique stores and some great pizza.
Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival are perfect destinations for group travel. The festival offers several programs especially for high school and college classes, and even some for teachers who want to bone up on their Middle English or drama knowledge. Church groups or clubs might like a couple of days of culture.
A trip to Ashland could be a fun destination on its own merits, or a bonus stop on an longer excursion to Northern California like the Redwoods National Forest, maybe the Oregon coast or even Crater Lake, which are all popular attractions located relatively close by.
When planning ye old next group trip, consider The BusBank. It can make everything easier, even if it’s to step back in time.