I had never seen Into the Woods—I know, I know!! It’s so rich for analysis and theory, how could I have missed that one all this time?!—but I thought the familiarity of the characters and the musical nature would make it a user-friendly play for Katie’s first night in Ashland, Oregon. And of course, I had to see The Tempest, a favorite play in adulthood and a Shakespearean play that is essentially about the act of authorship and the relationship of playwright to audience. What I did not foresee: how utterly complementary the two works are in theme and in the questions they ask. I totally understand why they chose to stage the plays side by side this year.

How do we tell stories? What is the “magic” of narrative-making? To what extent does strategic thinking/game theory become significant in engineering these stories? How do we pass tales from one generation to the next? What do the woods and a barren island have in common as a landscape in which/on which anything may be written? What happens when we get what we wish for (“my library was dukedom large enough”), or when we don’t? How do we assign responsibility/blame for life-changing events, and to what extent do we all share a piece of that responsibility? What does it mean to be alone, or not? 

PAR-A-DISE. Ashland is paradise. Oh yes. A light dinner, a late play, an evening stroll hand-in-hand with your daughter at 11:00 PM a couple of blocks back to the B&B while people grab coffee and chat about that evening’s performances…

We had been discussing The Tempest for a month. She now has a graphic novel version of it (preserving original language) that she has read several times. She is obsessed with Ariel and wants to be him/her for Halloween, maybe. In this year’s Ashland version, a woman played Ariel and was PHENOMENAL. Katie loves how Ariel made Trinculo appear to be speaking. She is concerned that Prospero would trick Ferdinand and Miranda. She has asked many questions about why Prospero addresses us at the end.

Into the Woods, though, gave Katie a whole new world. We have been talking about it since we saw it. Is there a villain? Who? Why, why not? We have looked at “the woods” as a setting in many of her other books—hm. What is the pattern there? What tends to happen in “the woods?” Why did the same actors occasionally play multiple characters? How did the costuming work? Who is to blame for what happens? What does it take to be happy?

Last night, we spent our whole evening walk talking again about the two plays. I love her mind. She understands. She asks good questions, and she comes up with cool insight. I love that she is a theater-goer and that all the very intentional training we did when she was two and three has now paid off: she knows not only how to behave, but also how to analyze theater, to be part of theater, to know that the audience has a job/function as well. Our minds get to play together. She is one of my favorite theater dates!

So, Ashland. You are a playground. A magical place…


We stayed at Pelton House, a cozy B&B.



We had the whole upper floor of the cottage, with two bedrooms and a bathroom, two walk-in closets/forts, and a secret door that opened into an attic crawl space. The kiddos were DYING over that secret door and the fact that one closet had two doors, so that you could go in it one way and out another.



The bathroom was lovely, with a steam shower and a separate tub. There were stained glass skylights in most rooms, as well. Just darling. And only a short walk away from the theaters. We walked everywhere, and I didn’t need the car at all that weekend.


Our mother-daughter old-fashioned nightgowns hanging in the closet…so we could feel a bit Shakespearean ourselves!





That first afternoon we arrived, we had time before dinner to go exploring. Katie and Eric took their scooters to Lithia Park, and we saw deer almost immediately. Just in the park, hanging out and being deer. Because it is Ashland, and Ashland is magical.




Mother-daughter-Caroline (doll) date to Into the Woods. Hot chocolate ensued. We saw this play in the open air Elizabethan theater.


Before the play, we had dinner with the boys at The Black Sheep, and English pub. Katie and Bill played chess.



A lovely dinner, one of my favorite of the trip. I had a cheese/fruit/pickle/bread board meal, The Ploughman, which I ordered seven years ago, too.


Breakfast at the B&B the next morning…




Lithia Park, a delightful place



Walking on our way to The Tempest. We saw this one at the Angus Bowmer Theater. So many layers in this particular production: the director included Butoh dancers (a Japanese form), who were on stage and moving periodically even before the play officially began. Watching the audience notice, or ignore, these players (who later became props, stage hands, and even spirit characters) was fascinating… So many levels of audience happening, watchers watching… So much to interpret, which is my favorite pastime.


Tickets for The Tempest!

I cannot wait until Eric ages into admittance to the Ashland theaters. He has been to the theater several times locally, but I eagerly await our first full family date in Ashland. I would have enjoyed hearing my husband’s interpretation and analysis of these plays, too. What a special, special place. Thank you, my William, for planning this for us. What a gift!