As it turned out, I did get to all the plays I wanted to - plus a rather groovin’ Hamlet. When I originally called in, it looked like I would get to two of the four, but once in Ashland, I was able to manipulate the entire palate: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, She Loves Me, Pride and Prejudice, Hamlet and Well. Well turned out to be the least of the bunch: well directed and acted but incomplete in the writing. The rest were superb.
Since the fifties and my college days - and that does date me - I have been going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, more or less regularly. I did miss a few years in the sixties when I moved to California. Used to drive, then flew up more recently. Several years ago, I took the Greyhound, just as the Ashland stop was discontinued.
So this year, I tried Amtrak. Less than half the price of flying ($193 San Jose to Ashland as compared to $450 SFO to nearby Medford). Cal train to San Jose, Amtrak to Klamath Falls and the shuttle to Ashland. Even with layovers in Klamath Falls it worked. Seniors and students get discounts so no surprise that they were in the majority. Also families that had more time than money for travel.
On the Seattle-bound train, were a clan of Quakers - females with white winged head coverings similar to the old nurses’ caps, loose cotton dresses and practical tennies; men in basic jeans, blue work shirts with suspenders. Returning were a large group coming from Sacramento-Davis into Emerybille (San Francisco), for the Memorial Day weekend - the ball game and shopping being the big draws.
Since I haven’t ridden American trains since my teens, it was interesting: certainly comparable to European and Asian trains, which I have used in recent times. And much more spacious than the airlines’ economy class. Clean toilets with dressing rooms. A game room. Cafe plus a dining car. And lounges. Over night, time consuming travel (twelve hours) but comfortable. Even with a teenager sprawled out, sleeping, on the seat next to mine.
I had a two to four hour wait for the connecting shuttle; this bus would hold about thirty people. Going over to the Coast, there were seven of us. Only one other stopping at Ashland for the Festival. Coming back, there were four of us - all but me coming from the Coast. An outstanding drive through mountains and trees and lakes with remaining bits and pieces of snow: close to Crater Lake.
Ashland, as always, is enticing. I have been so close to moving there over the years, most particularly five or so years ago when I was doing an agonizing reappraisal of my present and future lives. Lawns, cut and uncut, old Victorian houses, restored and not - styles and placement of buildings without city planning interference; lush greenery after a wet winter and spring. Despite becoming a tourist attraction, it has managed to keep its small town character. Very similar to Stratford, Ontario or Niagara-on-the-Lake,Canadian homes to Shakespeare and Shaw.
I returned to the Columbia Hotel in the middle of town, upstairs above various shops. It’s a place with a Victorian ambiance, under $100 with shared facilities. The owner, a Welshman, is turning over the management to a younger generation, who have modernized a few things but promise not to make any basic changes.
The four days there were spent at the theatre, including a a tour of the three venues, and wandering about town. Not just shops, but around the park and up and down various paths and streets. Chilly and wet, the sun finally came out tha last morning when I walked out to the memorable Morning Glory cafe on Siskiyou Avenue for a final meal before returning home.
You’ll hear from me next year on this one. Oh, and Sam, the cat, managed alright with catsitter and FOS (Friends of Sam) stopping by to play and pet. He forgave me readily for being gone - and that he has to get used to for I’m going into my traveling season.