Family friendly?

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has created age recommendations for its plays this season, giving most of the productions ratings equivalent to PG or PG-13, and none equivalent of R.

Many of the festival's productions, including all of its Shakespeare plays this season, are suitable for 12, 13 or 14 year olds.

"Julius Caesar," for example, is best suited for playgoers age 12 and older, since it features several suicides and a mass stabbing as its centerpiece, the recommendations state.

The age recommendations aren't new this year, but they are much more visible on the festival's website as a way to provide better customer service, said Amy Richard, media relations director.

"Parents interested in bringing their children have requested information about the plays and if they are children friendly," she said in an e-mail message. "Of course, what one parent feels is acceptable for their children can be quite different from another's. The general guidance of the age recs is meant to be that — a broad, general aid."

Two of the plays, "August: Osage County" and "Ghost Light," are appropriate for mature 16-year-olds and older.

"August" is about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family and includes strong profanity, drug use, suicide, incest and the attempted rape of an underage girl.

"Ghost Light," about the aftermath of the 1978 murders of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and city councilman Harvey Milk, features strong profanity, graphic sexual language and homophobic slurs.

At least one play this season is suitable for very young children, according to the guidelines.

Playgoers 6 and older should enjoy "The Pirates of Penzance," which features kind-hearted buccaneers.

The other plays are rated the equivalent of PG or PG-13.

The recommendations are created by the festival's education department after discussions with directors in June and July, Richard said.

OSF has been creating age guidelines since the late '80s and began posting them on its website five years ago, she said. This year, the festival decided to post short age recommendations under "The Plays" section of its website, with links to the longer descriptions.

The festival takes school groups into account when deciding which plays to produce, because the groups make up a significant portion of the festival's business, Richard said.

"Because our students groups and education are critical to the life of the festival, we always want to have plays that students can see," she said. "In the spring we like to have three plays that will appeal to student groups."

Although the recommendations can be helpful, the festival encourages parents and educators to familiarize themselves with the plays before making a decision.

"The best way for parents to prepare their children is to read the play and discuss it with their child," Richard said.

To view the complete guidelines visit

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or

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