Letter at length, September 2

Criticism of OSF actors is rubbish

Last Friday an article (see "Raising the Bard toward a bigger act" in the Tidings) by Charles McNulty (read McNutty) of the Los Angeles Times castigated the Oregon Shakespeare Festival acting company for its "unsubtle quality of playing" and wanted "more chemistry between the leads." What unadulterated rubbish!

In 50 years as a professional actor and director, I have worked on Broadway, Off Broadway and in first-rate regional theaters around the country. I came to Ashland in 1997 to play Willy Loman in "The Death of a Salesman" and retired a few seasons later. In my entire acting and directing career I have never worked with or seen a higher level of performance than here in Ashland. Most of that company remains today, continuing to do exemplary work.

If McNutty is annoyed with "eye bulging, brow-clenching, fist raising theatrics," I suggest he begin with questioning director choice. It is, after all a directable option. Perhaps an actor has been told to intensify the scene.

As to "chemistry between leads," I have seen such strong, tight-knit companies here over the years that I find it totally implausible that this issue is even raised. Of course, doing 11 plays a season you will have chemistry problems from time to time, but in the case of these actors who have worked together over and over, only a very few productions fail to meet top professional standards.

Also, the problem of chemistry begins with the casting process, includes the actual directing and most definitely should not be placed solely on the shoulders of the acting company.

Where I agree totally with this Los Angeles writer is that "Actors would have to be extremely devoted to their craft to accept an almost yearlong commitment in an area far from the media spotlight." As a matter of fact, that is exactly what this group of well-trained, highly talented actors has done ... for years!

I await hopefully for Bill Rauch and the artistic staff of OSF to weigh in on this issue. Furthermore, I would suggest that the Los Angeles Times look to weaning the "deadwood" from its own writing staff or at least keep them in Hollywood reviewing soap operas.

Doug Rowe


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