The new $5.1 million re-do of “The Bricks” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival represents recognition that the lovely outdoor space has, in the last decade, become a huge gathering spot and magnet for dazzling entertainment of the sort never dreamed of even a generation ago.
In the late 20th century, you’d find some dancers and pipers of the Renaissance era, prancing about and getting you in the mood for Shakespeare plays. It was charming and adored by OSF founder Angus Bowmer — but just imagine him witnessing some of the music we have now. The pioneering Bowmer probably would have gawked and said, “Well, things have a way of evolving, don’t they?”
The grand opening Thursday of the freshly remade Bricks was a stunning gala, with every soul in the crowd of thousands shooting up their hands and, like Bowmer, giving three “hip-hip-hoorays.” After being a fenced mud pit for seven months, this, the heart of the OSF campus, surrounded by three theaters, the administrative offices and box office, was immediately loved by spectators.
The upbeat spot was made a bit steeper for better sight lines, fitted with four times the seating it had, this on concrete benches, sprinkled liberally around the old familiar grass spots. It was engineered to be the best in handicapped accessibility and — as if to underline that — amazed and uplifted the crowd with a performance of of some ballroom dancing with dancers in wheel chairs, featuring Infinite Flow — A Wheelchair Dance Company.
The Bricks are also special because they offer top-flight entertainment nightly (except Monday), absolutely free for anyone, during the "outdoor season," when plays fill the nearby Allen Elizabethan Theatre with stage magic. Green Shows start at 6:45 p.m., June 16 through Oct. 17. A complete schedule is online at bit.ly/osfgreenshow2017, and current listings appear daily in the Tidings on Page A2.
We asked Ashlanders, long familiar with the old Bricks, what they thought of the new ones.
Rick Sparks — It’s awesome. There’s a lot more seating. The stage is more professional with lighting and sound and it’s totally accessible to people under ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act).
Ron Model — It’s got a lot more room for more people and is more accessible to the handicapped. It feels more modern and stage-like, more involving with the audience and they can be closer to the stage.
Stephanie Stewart — Ashland is a Sanctuary City and we welcome everyone but the homeless. It seems so hypocritical and marginalizing. They have the motto here of “Access for All,” but I don’t think that includes the homeless. Can you imagine a bunch of them here?
Jessica Sage — It’s amazing. Part of the festival’s mission statement is Access for All and they did it. There are more places to sit instead of the grass. It’s helpful if you can’t bend down. This is such a meeting place. We have to get used to the changes and settle into the into the new venue. The stage is a vast improvement with overhead lighting and speakers. It will be a happy summer.
Elisabeth Zinser, former SOU president (2001-06) — It’s absolutely visionary. It opens things up in a very accessible way and brings it outdoors. It takes accessibility to the next level in a visual and inspiring manner.
Marie Kimokeo-Goes — I’m in shock. I see children jumping around from one thing to another. I thought it would be more even and level. It seems more dangerous. For me, it is fine. Everyone can walk or use wheelchairs.
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.