The Book is Out!

Joy, gentle friends, joy and fresh days of love accompany your hearts!”

The truly grand news is that our book, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Actors: Telling the Story is finished, released, OUT! Since it is about actors at the festival in Ashland, Oregon, you can find it at the Tudor Guild on the OSF campus, Bloomsbury Books, Paddington Station, and other small bookstores around Ashland, Oregon. We are now on!

In the spring of 2013, two Shakespeare professors, Alan Armstrong and I, had coffee at Starbucks and began to get serious about writing a book where we interviewed a favorite dozen of the actors from the festival company. Alan had long acquaintance with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from his work as Southern Oregon University’s Director of Shakespeare studies for twenty-three years, and he’d also been dramaturg on seven plays there. I had written three books about actors who perform Shakespeare, and you can get a look at these on this website. In fact, kudos from one of my interviewees, Stacy Keach, whose comments show up on the cover of the new book!

We wanted to create a different kind of reading experience, not the regular Q&A format, but one which captured the person behind the artist, a human interest story not limited to the actor’s process but broadened to the collaborative activity of a Tony Award-winning repertory performing eleven plays a year. So you discover the actors' early training and mentors, what influences pushed them into theater work, how their preparation moves from text study to rehearsal to actual performance, and how interaction with directors and other theater artists works collaboratively to create an experience for the audience. This view takes you inside the world of theater to the nuts and bolts of creating a show.

Who are the actors in the book? There is a range---some just now forging a future career, like Mark Bedard zipping through commedia dell’arte and Groucho’s comic genius, Danforth Comins coming forth as Coriolanus and then cresting Tennessee Williams’ heroes, Nell Geisslinger emerging as a virtual comet of a newcomer, and the delightfully wise and professorial John Tufts, both kingly and royal in his articulate commentary.

Then there are the seasoned master actors, like Michael Elich, the high achiever of roles he bites off and delivers in a burst of panache. Richard Howard has this calm and magisterial focus on the forces of chance in classic plays. David Kelly doles out his unmatchable and exuberant comic gift with creative flair. Mark Murphey remembers early days at OSF with wisdom and balance couched in rock-solid honesty; and Vilma Silva details her creative way of digging into the motives of her many-faceted characters. That’s not all: Kevin Kenerly heats up Hotspur and sends that energy into his throne of blood. And Jonathan Haugen handles Faustus in one breath and then delivers Henry Higgins in glorious operatic bursts of song (you find out how!).

We were continually inspired by the gifts of these diverse and talented actors---their concentration and focus, their need for precision, and just the pure pleasure of listening to them weave their stories and find their groove.

And if you have not already, come soon to Ashland to see our treasure trove of talent. Enjoy Shakespeare outdoors, hallmark plays indoors, and new plays opening in all the venues. Then buy the book! It will bring to life your time spent in a lovely, laid-back town, where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is still the jewel in its crown.

For an in-depth conversation about the book, Mary was interviewed by Ed Battistella and Michael Newman on KSRQ radio. CLICK HERE.