Midsummer Night's Spectacle

Shakespeare is a reliable summer hit, especially performed outdoors. So why is he a hard sell under a roof in winter?

As twilight slips over the hilly college town of Ashland, Oregon, the sweet summer evening seems too balmy and starry for whiling away indoors, even to the holiday throngs who have journeyed to attend the theater here. Fortunately they need not choose between pleasures. Night after night, vividly costumed Shakespeare -- preceded by madrigals and heralded by a flag raising and trumpet fanfare from the topmost gables of a Tudor stagehouse -- unfolds beneath an open sky, turning edification into festival.

The scene takes place at the largest U.S. regional theater and one of the oldest (founded in 1935), a three-stage...

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