Those of us who see all the Oregon Shakespeare Festival plays each year and sometimes go to a few more than once are in the minor leagues compared to Andrew Kramer, an Ashland resident since 2009.
Kramer sees 120 to 130 OSF performances every season. He liked the 2015 production of “Pericles” so much he saw it 33 times.
He’s affectionately known as “Spare Ticket Guy” because he often can be found on "the bricks" in front of one of the theaters holding a sign that reads, “Wanted: Spare Ticket.” People give him a spare ticket, they don’t sell it to him.
“People are happy a ticket doesn’t go to waste,” he said. “Some people remember me from previous years, some are locals, and others are company members with comps they can’t use.”
The ruddy-cheeked, fit, 64-year-old retiree sports a stylish white mustache and beard (he shaves the beard in the spring), wears an Elizabethan style brimless cap, and is passionate about the dramatic arts.
“I’ve always liked theater,” Kramer said. “My parents were academics and took me to plays.” His father was a librarian and his mother was a teacher.
He heard about Ashland from his grandmother.
“She was an English teacher in the (San Francisco) Bay Area and I remember her talking about the Shakespeare Festival,” he said.
When he moved to Ashland from Siskiyou County, one of the first plays he saw was “The Servant of Two Masters.”
“After the performance, I remember thinking I’d like to see it again.” It wasn’t long after that he made a sign and tried his luck on the bricks.
Not everybody understands why he would want to see a play multiple times.
“Some people are incredulous. But after seeing a play several times, I realized there are many different layers to a performance, many different things you can see over time,” he said.
“It’s like an art gallery. Sometimes you go back because a particular painting speaks to you.”
At the end of the season, he has a composite view of the works. It’s a melding of the text, the acting, production values, his emotional response, and how the plays evolve during the season.
“Every performance is different. It even depends on where you sit or what’s going on in your life — what you bring to the experience.”
Kramer is a member of OSF and buys a considerable number of tickets each season — for himself and for family and friends.
He likes to see closing night performances.
One of his most memorable closing nights was for “Head Over Heels,” the 2015 jukebox musical featuring music and lyrics by the Go-Go’s.
“At the end of the play, they grab somebody from the audience to be the king,” he said. “I had seen several performances and noticed they took the person in seat B-15. It was available for the closing, so I bought it.
“I got to take bows on the Elizabethan stage,” he said, grinning.
He sees most plays up to a dozen times during a season. His favorite year was 2010. The season included “Hamlet” with Dan Donohue, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Ruined,” and “Pride & Prejudice.”
His favorite so far this season is “Julius Caesar.”
“I like the chemistry between Danforth Comins’ Brutus and Rodney Gardiner’s Cassius. And the staging is great,” he said.
Some of his all-time OSF favorites, besides the ones already mentioned, include “Tracy’s Tiger,” “The Unfortunates,” “Fuddy Mears,” “Equivocation,” “Bus Stop,” the “American Revolution” series, and “Vietgone.”
“I attended a Daedalus auction and bought a ticket to a barbecue with the 'Vietgone' cast at an OSF supporter’s home. It cost me $100, but it was worth it.”
That play was particularly cathartic for him, having been a young man during the Vietnam war.
He is a fan of the New Plays Festival and takes OLLI classes, noting a special appreciation for Annette Lewis’s course, “OSF, Let’s Talk About It.” He also enjoys attending community dialogues and OSF park talks.
He and his girlfriend, Sharon Swingle, have a common interest in the theater. She worked as a costume designer and recently retired as an instructional support specialist and teacher at the College of the Siskiyous. She designed the costumes for the Camelot production of “Calendar Girls.”
Kramer retired in 2006 from a career as a wildland firefighter. He worked on hand crews, helicopter crews, and finally as a dispatcher. He worked mostly on the West Coast, but at times was called to fight fires as far away as Florida.
In his spare time, Kramer plays disc (Frisbee) golf and flies sport kites.
“One of the reasons I retired was that work was cutting into my kite flying time,” he said.
— Jim Flint is a former newspaper publisher and editor now living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.
(April 9: Story updated to correct spelling of Rodney Gardiner's name.)