As the Oregon Shakespeare Festival prepares to open its outdoor theater, tickets sales are up 8 percent over the same time last year, pointing to the possibility of another record season.

As the Oregon Shakespeare Festival prepares to open its outdoor theater, tickets sales are up 8 percent over the same time last year, pointing to the possibility of another record season.

In its first 14 weeks, the festival has sold 7,500 more tickets than last year, OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson said Wednesday.

"I've been here for 30 years and I've never seen a spring like this one," he said. "We're hopeful that the trend will continue. Last year was very strong on the outdoor stage and we're hoping that this year will be just as strong, if not stronger."

The Elizabethan Stage opens Tuesday, when "Twelfth Night" begins previews. Preview performances of "Henry IV, Part One" and "The Merchant of Venice" begin Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The shows open June 11 through 13.

Advance ticket sales show the festival's entire season is up 3 percent over last year, as OSF already has sold 10,000 more tickets than this time in 2009, Nicholson said.

Last season, OSF saw the highest attendance and revenue in its then 74-year history. The 410,034 festival attendees brought in $17.01 million.

The festival had budgeted for a 6 percent drop in ticket sales this year, Nicholson said.

— Ashland Daily Tidings