Greetings, friends! I’m afraid you’ve caught me in my semi-annual if-it’s-not-about-OSF-don’t-talk-to-me post.
Obviously, I’ve just returned from my group trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. As you may know by now, I typically take this trip with a gathering of twenty-something high-schoolers, and it was with that group I saw the plays and attended a few activities – but for the most part, my mother and I stuck with our carpool team, my friend Gracie (the Wasp) and her parents.
The Ashland carpool teams in themselves are always an interesting study.
Every year, when our group congregates outside the Angus Bowmer theater, you can always tell which kids took cars together because a highly-caffeinated four-hour drive has a certain affect on people. They walk in sync, they say things in unison, and they basically walk around going
As Gracie was sentenced to sit next to me for the entirety of the trip, the image above is more or less an accurate photograph of us (she’s classic Dipper) ((Plus, she brought a couple of Cabin Pressure episodes to listen to. 10/10 would sit by again)
This year we enjoyed a spectacular trip, and should you consider making an Ashland trip of your own, I dearly hope it is as good as mine. The OSF experience is different for everyone, but there are some constants in the equation. I’ve recorded such constants in the below five steps that my group took and would now highly recommend.
1. See Ashland
Ashland is a gorgeous place. Simple as that. Gracie and I took many walks downtown, exploring stores we’d not seen before and trying out new restaurants, always making sure to drop in what became one of the taglines of our trip, “Oh my gosh I want to sit down so badly.” Of course there were high-energy times of the trip as well, and you could tell when one was going on, because one of us was belting out “SUITS” at two-second intervals and the other was swirling around street lights, crooning “THE WINGMAN I CAN WEAAR.” Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit is the first track on the official soundtrack of this trip.
2. Participate in the activities Ashland offers
Museums, walking tours, the Green show – Ashland won’t let you get bored. The group with which we bought tickets arranged a field trip to “Exploring Design,” a workshop led by Chris Tufts to explain how the costume designers at OSF use symbolism and character studies to decide on the best possible costumes. During the group activity, my team got so into the spirit of things that we very nearly dressed The Tempest‘s Caliban in Steampunk Darth Maul regalia. In any case, I expect a job offer with the festival within the month.
3. Meet the people
When you separate from your group of peers, you are freed up to meet more of the fascinating Ashland locals. Of course everyone has different ways of getting connected. Some people may strike up a conversation with their neighbors in the audience of the plays they see. Others might greet the people enjoying beautiful Lithia Park. My personal strategies included holding eye contact with the SOU students wearing fandom t-shirts and talking loudly to the Wasp about the Festival in the presence of OSF actors who were trying to get errands done in peace. What’s that? Passive socializing is not for you? Then may I recommend seeing Into the Woods and waving so hard at orchestra musicians onstage that you nearly lift off your seat?
(My row and the trumpet section really bonded. We’re going for coffee next week.)
4. Enjoy the plays
Obviously the plays are a must. The people at OSF know what they’re doing, and each play is a masterpiece. This season I saw The Cocoanuts, The Tempest, Into the Woods, and A Wrinkle in Time, though I would have loved to see more. They were all astounding in their own ways, from the ingenuity of the stage design in the Tempest, to the frankly ridiculous amount of fun the cast of the Cocoanuts was obviously having. There are tips to enjoying it as much as possible. Before A Wrinkle in Time, I read a chapter of the original work out loud to my seat buddy, and I finished the Tempest shortly before making the trip. Pre-show preparation can only do so much when the play is actively going on however, so my most certain suggestion is that you sit next to someone you may punch in the arm mercilessly, should the mood take you.
Sorry, Gracie. But I’m pretty sure we were even on that front, right?
5. Be a good audience
I love a lot of things about live theatre, but one of the main things has to be that it’s one of the few story-telling outlets where overt, unbridled enthusiasm is encouraged. Actors don’t want to play in front of a room of people half-asleep. They want to know you’re there. And considering that my one true gift is enthusiastic response, there’s no question as to why OSF is my happy place. Every audience I was a part of was excellent – it’s hard not to be responsive in Ashland. Like I said, they know what they’re doing.
When we went in to see A Wrinkle in Time, Gracie even started a small-scale round of applause for Calvin’s impressive basketball-twirling, and the actor went on to do that move for far, far longer than he had when I’d seen this play before.
Encouragement! Try it today!
At the Q&A session after the play, the darling who played Mrs. Who bounced in and said that the whole cast had asked her to tell us that we’d been a wonderful audience.
And don’t fret, Gracie and I went ahead and took way more credit than we probably should have.
The morning after I arrived home, I awoke with a cough that announced itself as the incarnation of the last four days having been spent alternately singing at the top of my lungs and scream-shouting “WHY A DUCK,” “YOU’VE GOT DREAMBOAT EYES,” and”AGONYYY” at every shadow of an opportunity.
If anything is a sign that a trip went well, that’s got to be it.
All by following five easy steps!