Why People Drive 8 Hours To See Theater

There’s a New York Times article about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival up in Ashland, which a lot of SF theater folks are pretty passionate about. Or, I guess not literally “a lot.”

[Artistic Director Bill Raush] said he had been motivated by a statistic he heard in college, that 98 percent of Americans don’t attend the theater regularly. “It really freaked me out, that I was going to devote my life to a profession and only interact with 2 percent of my fellow citizens,” he said….

Kinda freaks me out, too, now that I think of it. Rauch is also pushing “nontraditional casting” farther than it’s been:

Mr. Rauch has also supported nontraditional casting in situations where previous artistic directors did not. The festival has long cast actors of varied races in Shakespeare plays…. But it has not cast nonwhite actors as frequently in revivals of American classics. Mr. Rauch is changing that.

Last season’s production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” featured an Indian-born actress in the role of Emily Webb. And this year Mr. Rauch cast an African-American actress, Gwendolyn Mulamba, as Marian the Librarian in his staging of “The Music Man.” That production received mixed reviews, with the critic for The Seattle Times calling Ms. Mulamba “a very fine O.S.F. actress” who was “sorely miscast” as Marian….

The president of the festival’s board, James Risser, said he didn’t have a problem with the casting of Ms. Mulamba as Marian.

“I agree that there probably wouldn’t have been a black librarian in Iowa in 1912, but I think we’ve gotten beyond that in watching plays these days,” Mr. Risser said.

Read the whole thing.