Our Trip to Ashland 2016

by Mike Ryan, Artistic Director       Posted March 22, 2016

We have just returned from our second annual trip to Ashland, Oregon, where we saw three of the first four shows of OSF’s season. Now that I have had a day to sleep off all of the excitement, I thought I would write a little bit about what that trip was like and what it means to me as an Artistic Director to go there with a group of our members.

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The SCS group at Anne Hathaway’s Bed and Breakfast.

Our mission statement here at SCS is: “Inspired by Shakespeare, we create and strengthen community by bringing audiences and theater artists together to celebrate stories about our collective humanity.” Besides our summer season, there is little we do as an organization that falls more in line with our mission than this trip to Ashland. Over the course of the trip we see three plays. Prior to each, we enjoy a salon with resident genius and textual consultant for Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Michael Warren, who provides us with background on the texts and the world in which they were written.  We ride in a bus together, sleep at the same bed and breakfast, and we eat, shop, and wander with one another, all the while talking about the things we have in common: Santa Cruz, Shakespeare, the plays we have seen, and sometimes things that surprise us.

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Michael Warren (left) and Mike Ryan (center) with Yeoman of the Guard actor Jeremy Johnson.

I have always been of the opinion that seeing the work of other Shakespeare Festivals is important, both for artists and our audiences. Such visits provide a framework for meaningful conversations about what works in performance and what does not.   They allow us to return to our own work inspired by the things we have seen that work beautifully and with increased wariness and watchfulness for problems that detract from these amazing stories. This visit also gave us the opportunity to catch up with artists who have worked with Santa Cruz Shakespeare in the past (Triney Sandoval, ’01; Gina Daniels, ’03; Daniel T. Parker, ’01, ’04, ’07; Daniel Duque-Estrada, ’09) as well as those who will be joining us in the future (Collette Pollard, scenic designer for Great Expectations, will be our scenic designer for the 2016 season!).

OSF Trip 2016_0950On a personal note, however, the best thing about the Ashland trip for me is that I get to know those members who attend in much more meaningful ways. Often, my interaction with our members and patrons is on the other side of the footlights. When I am not performing, I am usually greeting folks just prior to going on stage, or hurriedly during the course of a tightly-timed event. The SCS to OSF visit gives me the breathing room to engage much more personally with the people in our community for whom we tell these stories. The better I know them, the better I know how to engage them with artistically. More importantly, however, my budding friendship with these great folks drives home my greatest wish for Santa Cruz Shakespeare: that it celebrate our connection to one another.

We hope to make our trip to Ashland annually every Spring, and if it grows in popularity may expand it to other times of year. I hope you will join us in 2017.