Support for art and family go hand-in-hand

Ashland is well known for supporting the arts, but the community also supports artists and their families. The YMCA, local churches, mother's clubs and other family-focused organizations help artists such as Shona Tucker manage the day-to-day aspects of life and childcare.

Tucker, a single mother and actress with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is doing double duty this season. She plays Rose in the critically acclaimed August Wilson play, "Fences," and also plays the Amazon Queen Hippolyta in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." To prepare for both roles, Tucker had a rehearsal schedule of about 60 hours a week, plus time needed for costume fittings, actor meetings, and a variety of work-related obligations. She never wanted her busy and varied schedule to negatively impact her child. "Any free time I had, I'd want to be with my son," she said.

Although Tucker admits an actor's life is hectic and varied, she also says that OSF is great for actors with young children. She recalls performing before she came to OSF, when her son was 9 months old. "I would do a scene, then run and pump breast milk when I was off stage," she said. She first heard of OSF about a decade ago when someone suggested she audition. She questioned the 10-month commitment to OSF, compared to the shorter commitments she had in the New York theaters. "I said I wouldn't do that unless I had a family or something. Fast forward 10 years, and I have my little boy. I sent an audition tape and have been with OSF for three years now."

Tucker has found Ashland to be a lively, nurturing environment in which to live and work. "The community has helped tremendously with information, babysitting, and support. I've been part of a mother's group that has given me valuable advice, from finding childcare to potty training and everything in between," she said. It was through her church, Trinity Episcopal, that she found many babysitters and good friends. "The church community here is great. And I love the YMCA; it has all these different classes and activities for kids. It's very family oriented." However, even with the help of local groups and facilities like the Y, Tucker had a roster of 14 babysitters last year. "Things come up. I didn't always know my schedule until the day before. Sometimes it was hard to find a sitter on short notice."

This year, Tucker has a live-in babysitter for consistent childcare during performances on nights and weekends. "She has been my saving grace." Tucker's circumstances may change in the future when her son enters elementary school. The one thing Ashland doesn't have is the rest of her family. She is considering teaching full-time at a university, something she has done intermittently over the years. "I love all the education options for children in Ashland, and my son is thriving. He knows Ashland and all the paths to the duck pond in Lithia Park, but I may return to Kentucky when he is older. I want to be home with him at night and I want him to know his extended family."

In addition to seeing Tucker at OSF, locals may catch her at Trinity Episcopal's fundraiser, Divine Follies, on Saturday evening, where she and other members of the congregation will be performing.

Artists can support communities where communities support artists. Because of the rich network of personal and artistic support in town, Tucker is also planning a reading in tribute to a friend and playwright who died of cancer recently. "There are few places I could plan something like this and know it will work on many levels," she says. "The work here is wonderful. I love my job, what I do. What actor wouldn't love working at OSF, working in Ashland."

For tickets to Divine Follies this Saturday contact Trinity Episcopal Church at 482-2656. Availability is limited.

For OSF performances, contact the box office at 482-4331 or go online to

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