Shakespeare on the Road

Heading north to Washington we’ve ran into a glitch. Our boat—our home for the next four months—was not ready for the water.

Now a bright fire-engine red, the hull still needed its white stripe painted, new rub rails installed on each side of the hull, and it’s rudder checked for electrolysis.

What to do? We stopped in Ashland, Oregon and took in a few plays.

Every time I see a Shakespeare play I am amazed by how relevant they are even today. In Ashland, the directors are true to the scripts, but the settings are often modern. I think the modern settings help with translation. Although many of Shakespeare’s phrases have crept into modern colloquialisms, one still has to listen carefully to the sixteenth century way of speaking.

In Henry IV, Part One we see young Prince Hal and his surrogate father, Falstaff, carousing in a bar complete with pole dancers and hip hop music and pulsing strobe lights. Even if you don’t follow the words, you get the drift—the prince is a rebellious youth, hanging with the wrong types, living for fun while his father, the king, prepares for war. The enemies are followers of another branch of the same family. Warring families exist today, clashing over politics, money, property, but perhaps without the same stakes as the royals. Still, these are universal themes.

In Julius Caesar we hear lots of familiar phrases and again, we see men in suits standing outside the Roman Senate, plotting the downfall of a leader who’s become too popular. Today’s weapons are words and technology. In Julius Caesar’s time, the weapons were daggers. Again, universal themes here…a country divided by factions that don’t trust each other.

Our third play was Shakespeare in Love. The Oregon Shakespeare Company likes to throw in a few modern plays to mix things up, and while the film is only a decade or so old, it took twelve years to adapt the screenplay for the stage. This was a modern play with a sixteenth century setting and language.

We were lucky to be able to stay in the Ashland Springs Hotel, a building on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a completely restored 1920s hotel, a few steps from the theaters, a place full of atmosphere and elegance. It had a delightful mezzanine overlooking the lobby with little tables used for afternoon tea, but empty in the morning. It was perfect for my daily writing sprints.

We’re on our way again, stopping to visit a niece and her family with a trip to Crater Lake, Bend, and a few places along the Columbia River as we work our way up north to Anacortes, Washington. Didn’t expect to be tourists, but what the heck. We’ll amble along and hopefully not arrive too early.

Although in the words of William Shakespeare, “Better three hours too soon, than a minute too late.”

1 thought on “Shakespeare on the Road”

  1. Great discussion!

    And, OMG, Pam, say hi to Anacortes for me! The gateway to those wonderful islands…and then while you tour the islands, say hi to them, too, will you? Thanks!


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