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Oregon Historical Photo: Shakespearean Festival, 1938


Lois Bowmer helps her husband, Angus, dress to play Hamlet at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in 1938. Angus founded the festival, produced plays and performed, formally retiring as artistic director in 1971; Lois was art director in the early years, creating both costumes and scenery.

Lois Bowmer helps her husband, Angus, dress to play Hamlet at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in 1938. Angus founded the festival, produced plays and performed, formally retiring as artistic director in 1971; Lois was art director in the early years, creating both costumes and scenery.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Frances Schilling

Every week, Oregon Experience shares a photo highlighting the state’s diverse, exciting history.

In 1935, in the midst of America’s Great Depression, professor Angus Bowmer organized “The First Annual Shakespearean Festival,” two plays over three days on the site of Ashland’s old outdoor Chautauqua meeting hall. Under his leadership, the audience, company and venue expanded over the decades.  The Festival now enjoys a level of success that even Bowmer probably never imagined.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the city’s economic mainstay and largest repertory theater in the country. Every 10-month season, a staff of about 500 people, helped by as many as 700 volunteers, presents 11 plays — by a wide range of playwrights — on three stages.

Watch the premiere of Oregon Experience’s 10th season with a behind-the-scenes look at the history of The Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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