Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Images of America Series)

Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Images of America Series)

by Kathleen F. Leary

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In 1935, Angus Bowmer, an instructor at Southern Oregon Normal School in Ashland, began with a dream and a small coterie of devoted friends who believed, as he did, in the value of Shakespeare performed on an Elizabethan stage. Though the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's early platforms were rudimentary and the backstage areas primitive, the art drew enthusiastic


In 1935, Angus Bowmer, an instructor at Southern Oregon Normal School in Ashland, began with a dream and a small coterie of devoted friends who believed, as he did, in the value of Shakespeare performed on an Elizabethan stage. Though the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's early platforms were rudimentary and the backstage areas primitive, the art drew enthusiastic audiences. The urgency of World War II closed the festival's doors, but in 1947 it reopened with larger theater facilities and an expanded repertory, winning the support and respect of state, regional, and national artists and dignitaries. In a setting of extraordinary beauty and a community dedicated to culture and the arts, the 75-year-old Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is among the largest and most influential professional regional theaters in North America.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Title: A new history of OSF

Author: M J Daspit

Publisher: Ashland Daily Tidings

Date: 10/15/09

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is noteworthy for many reasons, not the least of which is its improbable history.

Founded in 1935 during the Depression in an out-of-the-way place, the festival took firm root for reasons that defy economic common sense. A new book, "Images of America: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival," just out to commemorate the festival's 75th anniversary, provides a pictorial documentary of how it all came about.

The slender paperback volume with the trademark sepia-toned cover image of Arcadia Publishing was conceived as a spin-off of Arcadia's "History of Ashland" by Joe Peterson, which also appeared recently in bookstores.

In September of 2008, Arcadia's Pacific Northwest Acquisitions Editor Sara Higginbotham contacted OSF Media Relations Manager Amy Richard looking for someone to do a history of Ashland. In discussing potential names with OSF Archivist Kathleen Leary, Richard saw an opportunity to do a separate volume devoted to the festival.

The only problem was the publisher's April 2009 deadline. By the time the project was contracted, Richard and Leary had less than four months to complete the work.

When asked how many photos they went through, Leary shook her head and said, "thousands." Selecting images that would best portray the festival as it grew and changed was only part of the problem. There were also publisher's requirements to consider. The dimensions of the volume dictated mostly horizontal shots. And once a photo was selected, there was the challenge of accurately identifying actors, staff, and community volunteers going back more than 70 years.

Some of the faces recognizable to locals include Dave Marston and James Giancarlo performing at the Green Show and Arnold Kohnert helping mount a display at the exhibit center. Nationally known personalities such as William Jennings Bryan, Duke Ellington, George Peppard, Ginger Rogers, Stacy Keach and William Hurt also make cameo appearances.

In compiling the history, Richard said, "We chose a chronological format, and tried to highlight community support, how the town grew with the festival." She pointed out that reception of the book demonstrates how locals continue that support. "It's available not only at the Tudor Guild and Bloomsbury, but also in the drug store and the hardware store."

Volumes in Arcadia's "Images of America" series are strictly limited to 128 pages. Text consists of short introductions to each chapter and captions for 180 to 240 black and white photographs.

Some readers may wish for an index or something more in the way of where OSF fits in the broader context of American theater. But these are quibbles. Given the publisher's constraints, the volume succeeds admirably in highlighting critical scenes in the story of how the miracle child of Angus Bowmer became the lifeblood of Ashland.

Title: Our Hometown Authors

Author: Alissa Lukara

Publisher: Ashland Magazine

Date: July 2009

We are such stuff as dreams are made on," says Shakespeare's Prospero in The Tempest. Southern Oregon, with its own Shakespeare festival, was also shaped by its early dreamers. Dreamers such as those who brought lumber mills, the railroad and other businesses to found Ashland; the tenacious visionary of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Angus Bowmer; the dreamers who surveyed the area and created the maps that paved the way for settlers and more, as the following hometown authors can attest.

Co-authors Amy E. Richard and Kathleen F. Leary knew the time was right for a book about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Oregon is celebrating its 150th birthday and 2010 will mark OSF's 75th anniversary. "We wanted to showcase the festival's extensive archives and include some of its history," said Richard, who has been OSF's media and communications manager for 12 years.

"Until now, the archives have been mostly used internally and by researchers, authors, teachers and Shakespeare scholars," added Leary, OSF archivist since 1986.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Arcadia Publishing, 2009), scheduled for September publication, includes 227 photos, presented chronologically, with captions. Richard and Leary outlined what to highlight, then Leary and volunteers searched the archives for photos and information. Richard wrote the text, which also integrated past correspondence and interviews with long-time OSFers including Richard Hay and William and Shirley Patton.

"Researching the book, I was struck by the incredible commitment and devotion of founder Angus Bowmer and of people involved with OSF and his dream--from the audiences to the people who work here to members and volunteers," said Richard. "We wanted to convey people's love for this place in the book."

For instance, the entire time Bowmer was producing director, he taught full-time at the college. Remarkably, the festival was 100% volunteer until post-WWII, when Bowmer received his first $1000 from Ashland.

"One photo showed four women working in the box office in the 1950's," said Leary.

"All were actors, too, which showed their deep dedication. I loved finding out about people's long careers here working in different departments. Many of these people helped us fact-check the accuracy of what we discovered and find information in the fastest way. The book was a group collaborative effort."

For information: www.tudorguild.org or www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Title: OSF in the history books

Publisher: KTVL-10 News

Date: 10/6/09

Ashland institution has produced a book with photos and words outlining the theater group's storied history.

Watch the video here:


Title: Amy Richard and Kit Leary Write Book on the Shakespeare Festival

Author: Staff Writer

Publisher: Ashland Sneak Preview

Date: 10/8/09

Arcadia Publishing has recently published Oregon Shakespeare Festival as part of its popular Images of America series. The book, written by Kathleen F. Leary and Amy Richard, coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Festival and features more than 200 images from the Festival's extensive archival collection, plus photos from the Southern Oregon Historical Society and the Terry Skibby collection.

The authors attempt to answer the long-time mystery of "how a nationally-renowned theater came to be located in rural southwest Oregon." Readers will be taken on a journey from the first Chautauqua tabernacle in the 1890s to the First Annual Shakespearean Festival in 1935.

Each of the five chapters is given an introductory historical setting, while every photo is provided an in-depth caption, placing that image in proper perspective.

Highlights include images of actors who went on to film and TV, including George Peppard, Stacy Keach and William Hurt. Much of the text is based on quotes from founder Angus Bowmer, artistic director Jerry Turner, and other long-time company members.

Kathleen Leary, also known as Kit, has been OSF's archivist for the last 24 years. She learned early on about history in her native Wisconsin when her father stopped the car at every historical marker along the way.

Inspired, Kit received an MLS with an Archives specialization from the University of Wisconsin in 1976, and an M.S. in Media Technology in 1977. She has worked all over the country (and Algeria) for educational institutions, historical societies, public libraries and for the Festival.

Amy Richard has spent twelve years as the media and communications manager for the Festival. She grew up on the East Coast and in 1990 moved to Ashland, where she discovered that she really "is a West Coast woman."

Soon after moving here, she landed a job as Arts and Entertainment Editor at the Ashland Daily Tidings. Through her writings about the Festival and interviews with company members, as well as attending many Festival performances, she fell in love with the organization.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival is available at area bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers or by going to www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Product Details

Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date:
Images of America Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.26(h) x 0.33(d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen F. Leary has worked as OSF's archivist for 24 years; media and communications manager Amy E. Richard has been with the festival for 12 years. Using images selected from the festival's extensive archival collection, these pages document its rich onstage and offstage history. Images from the Southern Oregon Historical Society and the Terry Skibby Collection show OSF's roots in the Chautauqua movement and its close relationship with the Southern Oregon community.

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