Guest Opinion: Trust OSF directors

In response to the guest opinion column by Herbert Rothschild (Aug. 3) I must take exception to his criticism of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival directors who, he says, "don’t trust Shakespeare."

Although I’m sure Rothschild, as a former professor of English literature who has held a "scholarly focus on Shakespeare" is more than familiar with all of Shakespeare’s work, he seems to ignore the fact that most of the OSF patrons who come to Ashland and partake of full banquets of plays during their visits do not have a scholarly focus and simply hope to be entertained. At the same time, they are savoring the stories and language of Shakespeare as well as the "fresh and relevant" interpretations of the works as presented by our extremely skillful actors who are, by their own admission, grateful for the rich and varied flavors of the directors who guide them.

As a longtime patron of OSF, resident of Ashland, and myself an English professor, I have to say that when I see Julius Caesar one year, when the emperor is played by a woman, and see it several years later to enjoy the play’s amazingly choreographed military encounters, I am enchanted and thankful that someone (the director) has had the vision to make the play different. How boring would it be to see the same play produced, over and over, in toga or codpiece, as if there were only one way for a play to be interpreted? What’s more, that a director’s vision includes non-binary gender diversity — not as a gimmick but as a nod to contemporary society — is an homage to Shakespeare’s classic relevance.

What we are seeing in the plays at OSF, especially the Shakespeare plays, are the efforts of visionary directors, producers, designers and actors to make the plays interesting and enjoyable to everyone who treks to Ashland from all over the country, especially to young people who might see their first stage performance here, or even to older people who have avoided Shakespeare because of the snooty arrogance of scholars they might have associated with Elizabethan drama.

It’s too bad that Rothschild and his friends no longer attend OSF’s Shakespearean plays; that’s their loss. But one shouldn’t be led to believe that their views are shared by academic and scholarly people who are likewise knowledgeable about Shakespeare. And, give me a break! If patrons leave after an intermission, it’s not a commentary on the director’s interpretation. It’s often a matter of a patron’s needing to sleep, especially when it’s an evening performance.

— Karen Toloui lives in Ashland.

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