Elizabethan theater, Lithia Park - Ashland OR
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built the original theater used to launch the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland OR in 1935, as part of general improvements the WPA was making to Lithia Park at the time. Over the years, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has became a major cultural draw on the West Coast, with several theaters in Ashland and Portland.
It all started in 1935 under drama teacher Angus Bowman of Southern Oregon (Teachers) College in Ashland, who asked the city to let him and his students perform Shakespeare as part of the annual July 4th festival. Bowman designed a rough copy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and persuaded the WPA to build it within the compass of the concrete walls of the ruins of the Chautauqua Auditorium built in 1905 (its concrete walls remained standing but the wooden roof had collapsed).
“Bowmer extended the walls to reduce the stage width to fifty-five feet, and painted the extensions to resemble half-timbered buildings. He designed a thrust stage—one projecting toward the audience—with a balcony. Two columns helped divide the main stage into forestage, middle stage, and inner stage areas.” (Wikipedia)
Theater productions were halted during World War II and then the original theater was torn down and replaced by another in 1947. That theater was torn down, in turn, and a new Elizabethan theater constructed in 1959, designed by Richard Hay (now renamed the Allen Elizabethan Theater). Nevertheless, “The old Chautauqua theatre walls, now ivy-covered, remain as the outer perimeter of the theatre” (Wikipedia).
Angus Bowman was not shy in calling his productions “The Oregon Shakespeare Festival” from the beginning and his vision has been fulfilled many times over. The Angus Bowman theater in Ashland was built in 1969 to honor the festival’s founder.
Project originally submitted by Elise Tam Cooc on November 30, 2013.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.SUBMIT MORE INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THIS SITE