As It Was: A little boxing with your Shakespeare?

More than three hundred thousand people travel to Ashland, Oregon, each year to attend one or more plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
But back in 1935, when Angus Bowmer first proposed three days of Shakespearian performances to the Ashland City Council, his idea was met with skepticism. After some discussion, the council reluctantly agreed to let him produce two plays during the 4th of July celebration only.
But, there was a catch.
The council was so sure that these plays were going to lose money that they insisted the stage be used during the day for boxing matches. That way, they reasoned, the money brought in from the boxing would make up for the money lost on the plays.
Bowmer set to work creating an Elizabethan stage out of the long-ago abandoned Chautauqua building, which was in ruins when he began. Homemade stovepipes and coffee-can lights illuminated the stage. Students from the Southern Oregon Normal School and local residents memorized their lines in preparation for entertaining the crowds.
Well, the plays were a smashing success and not only made money, but also made enough to cover the losses from the boxing matches!
As for the council’s concerns, they proved to be … much ado about nothing.
Source: Kerr, Molly Walker, “What’s Past is Prologue, The Bard Celebrates Sixty Years in Ashland.” Southern Oregon Heritage Today. Vol. 1. No. 2 (Fall 1995): 14-18.
— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at

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