Shakespeare is here, there, everywhere and we’ve seen some of it – unfortunately not in Stratford, Ontario for about ten years. I used to go there a lot as a kid growing up in suburban Detroit and judging from a recent NYTimes review of “Stratford’s” latest season it’s as good as ever with Christopher Plummer, at age 80 no less, among the performers. In March we saw a very modern Hamlet at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland
And on Thursday, we saw a lively production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (a rather silly play methinks) performed by the Repertory Theater of Iowa on the lovely grounds of Salisbury House, an old English stone and brick mansion in, of all places, Des Moines that provides a perfect backdrop for a Shakespearean play. A local tycoon built Salisbury House in the 1920s, inspired by a visit to the King’s House in Salisbury, England, which dates back to the 13th century according to Wikipedia. (And judging from the pix of Kings House, the Des Moines replica is pretty darned close.) Catch the “Merry Wives” while (and if) you can – performances through this Sunday…
I didn’t think we’d be able to visit Crater Lake – which graces the cover of many an Oregon tourism brochure – because it’s snow season but we made it there, about 1.5 hours north of Medford, with no problem. The last half hour or so of the trip was like riding through a bobsled run – with 10 to 15 feet walls of snow lining the two-lane road, but the road itself was largely clear of snow and ice. Crater Lake was, as expected, stunning – very still and quiet in the winter sun and just a handful of visitors braving the thick snow. We walked for a little bit on a trail blazed by cross-country skiers – which in addition to snow shoes is the way to go there this time of year. Every few footsteps one of us would suddenly sink a foot or so into the deep, deep snow. There are daily free ranger-led snow shoe tours (snow shoes provided) – next time!
On the way back, we stopped in a little town near the Rogue River Gorge (which is more like the Ithaca gorges than the Columbia River Gorge) for a late lunch at Beckies’ – an old dark wood roadside place that is the only restaurant or biz for miles, or so it seemed. Good hearty fare – beef stew, blt, very berry homemade pie.
At night, we went to see a modern-day version of Hamlet performed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – some definitely strange elements: The King communicated with Hamlet in sign language, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were women, the players (“the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” or some such) were hip hop performers. But I thought it worked and the actor playing Hamlet managed to make some of his almost-too-famous lines sound fresh, which is quite a feat. Very nice theater – very intimate, sort of theater in the round and we were in the third row for $36 per tix bought at the last minute. Place was packed too.