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MailTribune.com
  • Our Legacy in Brief Angus Bowmer

  • The father of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival said the idea came to him while looking at the old Chautauqua building ruins in Ashland's Lithia Park.
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  • The father of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival said the idea came to him while looking at the old Chautauqua building ruins in Ashland's Lithia Park.
    The Chautauqua had been an annual series of programs traveling in a circuit around the United States, bringing entertainment and culture to the masses. By 1933, interest in Chautauqua was gone and the Chautauqua building, built in 1917, had been torn down. Only its curving lower walls remained.
    "It gave me the impression of a 16th-century sketch of the Globe Theater," Bowmer said. "I began to do some research and got excited about the possibility of producing a Shakespearean work there."
    Bowmer, an English professor at Southern Oregon Normal School (now Southern Oregon University), received a grant of less than $400 from the city of Ashland, and some assistance from the State Emergency Relief Administration, enough to build a stage within the old Chautauqua shell. The festival began July 2, 1935, with a production of "Twelfth Night."
    Bowmer continued teaching as he built OSF, and in 1958 he finally could say the festival had produced all 37 of Shakespeare's plays.
    Bowmer died on May 26, 1979, leaving a legacy that continues to grow.
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