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4A COTTAGE GROVE SENTINEL APRIL 12, 2017
Offbeat Oregon History: Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival
In 1931, at the height
of the Great Depression,
a young, charismatic dra-
ma teacher named Angus
Bowmer got a job at Southern Oregon Normal
School in Ashland.
Bowmer, a fresh graduate of Washington State
Normal School in Bellingham (now Western
Washington University), had specifi cally set out
to fi nd a teachers’ college (known then as “normal
schools”) to start his career in. He had applied for
employment at two of them, the only two open-
ings at normal schools in the country. The fi rst,
the more established Eastern Washington school
at Ellensburg, looked at his record of producing
and participating in less-than-high-brow dramatic
productions, wrinkled its nose, and passed. Luck-
ily for all involved, Southern Oregon did not.
Today, Southern Oregon University is a fi ne
liberal arts college with a large and thriving com-
munity of scholars. In 1931, though, it was barely
off the ground. Its entire student body was less
than 100; its history dated back to the 1890s but
it had spent most of the intervening time closed.
Its facilities were correspondingly antiquated and
But one day, shortly after coming to the college,
Bowmer made a visit to Lithia Park. And while he
was there, he happened to look out at a derelict
old building across the way, and something about
it suddenly looked familiar to him.
The building was an old Chautauqua house,
built in 1917 to house Ashland’s then-boom-
ing Chautauqua scene. At the time, the unrein-
forced wooden dome covering its top was the
second-largest structure of its kind in the United
States. Unfortunately, by the early 1930s time,
the elements and the laws of physics had rather
ganged up on the old building, and the ceiling
was getting dangerous. So one of the Civilian
Conservation Corps groups had been tasked with
dismantling it, leaving nothing behind but a huge
By Finn JD John
For The Sentinel
semi-cylindrical stone wall.
And that wall, as Bowmer looked out at it,
looked an awful lot like the Globe Theater in Lon-
don — the onetime home stage of William Shake-
Bowmer got busy doing what artists special-
ize in: dreaming big. Knowing from a previous
production that Ashland residents really enjoyed
Shakespeare when it was presented to them, he
pitched the Ashland Fourth of July Celebration
committee on doing a couple Shakespeare plays
in the old Chautauqua building as part of the cele-
bration. Based on previous performance, Bowmer
was confi dent that it would pull in at least enough
money to cover its expenses.
The committee took the whole thing under
advisement. Despite the example of Bowmer’s
previous play, none of them really believed that
something like that would make money. But
Bowmer was persuasive, and they hated to turn
him down, and all of them were good small-town
boosters interested in the educational betterment
of their town.
Finally, a delegation of businessmen from the
Committee came to see Bowmer. Although they
liked the idea, they told him somewhat sheepish-
ly, they were worried that his plays would cause
a “defi cit in the celebration budget,” as Bowmer
dryly phrased it in his autobiography 40 years lat-
er; and to make up for this anticipated fi scal hem-
orrhage, they had a suggestion that would, they
said, guarantee success.
The diffi dence with which they were approach-
ing Bowmer made it very clear that they expected
him to hate the idea. But fi nally one of them blurt-
ed it out: What would he think of sharing the Eliz-
abethan stage with a series of boxing matches?
To their astonishment, Bowmer said it sounded
like a fi ne idea.
“I assured them that such an event would be
quite typical of the kind of thing that appealed to
Elizabethan audiences,” Bowmer wrote, “though,
to be sure, their tastes were somewhat more
And so it was that, in 1935, the very fi rst event
in what would soon become the Oregon Shake-
speare Festival shared billing with a series of
The plays, of course, were a great success. And
when the holiday was over and the tickets were
being counted, Bowmer and his band discovered
that they had covered their expenses with a good
bit of cash left over.
Which was very fortunate, because the box-
ing matches that were supposed to guarantee the
festival’s solvency were a miserable fl op. Nearly
all the Shakespeare company’s surplus earnings
had to be pumped into making up the boxing pro-
gram’s losses, and Bowmer found himself facing
the next year with an empty purse.
But, of course, there was never any thought of
ending the Shakespeare plays.
Ironically enough, this was not the only year
the plays ended up being forced to subsidize
something else. At the end of the second year,
the festival was once again in the black — but
by a slimmer margin this time: just $84.73. The
plays were sponsored by Southern Oregon Nor-
mal School that year rather than the Fourth of
July Celebration Committee; so Bowmer went to
the president of the college and asked if the funds
could be placed in a special bank account for the
No, the president said; because the college had
just become part of the Unifi ed System of Higher
Education in Oregon, the money had to go into
the general fund. But, he added, it would be “ear-
marked” for the next year’s festival, so all would
be fi ne.
Thus reassured, Bowmer happily headed off on
sabbatical, traveling to England to soak up some
Shakespearean infl uences right from the source.
But when he returned the following June, he
was informed that the Southern Oregon Normal
School football team had had a bad season, and
the school had used the festival’s $84.73 to pay
“You can imagine my depression,” Bowmer
wrote. “I could see an endless succession of sea-
sons stretching into the future, seasons in which
the Festival would continue to exist only for
the purpose of providing money to needy box-
ing matches, football seasons and other athletic
The situation incensed Bowmer enough that he
started looking for alternative arrangements. And,
through discreet inquiries, he learned that the
festival’s local credit rating was great. With two
money-making years under their belt, the festival
had convinced the key vendors in Ashland that
they would be paid for anything they advanced.
So Bowmer was able to cut all ties to the school
and the celebration committee, and incorporate
the Oregon Shakespearean Festival Association
as a nonprofi t educational institution.
And so it has remained ever since.
Omega-3 fatty acids for brain health through all stages of life
There are three major omega-3 fatty ac-
that we get from our diets. Alpha-lino-
For The Sentinel
lenic acid (ALA) is a short-chain omega-3
found in fl axseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts,
and other plant foods. When we take in ALA
from plant foods, the body can convert it into
long-chain omega-3s: DHA and EPA, most
commonly obtained by eating fi sh. The long-
chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are
associated with many aspects of brain health,
and DHA is especially important for early
brain development. Conversion effi ciency of
ALA from plant foods alone may not be suf-
fi cient for many people to achieve adequate DHA and EPA status.
I recommend supplementing with these benefi cial fats, since most
modern diets are low in DHA and EPA unless fi sh is consumed reg-
ularly, and research has confi rmed that vegans tend to have a low
omega-3 index. DHA is concentrated in the membranes of brain
cells; there, DHA provides structure to the membrane and is in-
volved in signaling, connectivity between cells, and neurotransmit-
ter production, among other important actions. EPA and DHA have
By Joel Fuhrman MD
some common functions and some distinctive ones. DHA is most
often associated with brain development, learning and cognition
and EPA with mood, behavior, and anti-infl ammatory effects.1-4
DHA is a building block of human brain and eye tissue, and suf-
fi cient levels of DHA throughout life are important for vision and
learning.1, 5 During pregnancy, maternal stores provide the devel-
oping baby with the DHA for brain and eye development, and after
birth, the DHA is provided by breast milk. There is some evidence
that having higher DHA levels, or taking DHA supplements during
pregnancy and nursing benefi ts the child’s cognitive development
and intelligence.6,7 Infants exposed to DHA-containing formula
have similarly shown cognitive improvements at 9 months com-
pared to those whose formula did not contain DHA.8
Although the time between birth and 2 years represents the phase
of the brain’s largest growth, brain development is not complete
after age 2; it continues through childhood and into the late twen-
ties.1, 9 The majority of omega-3 supplementation trials in children
and adolescents have reported improvements in measures of school
performance (such as reading, spelling or learning ability) or be-
One interesting study used functional MRI to view activity in
the brains of young boys (8-10 years of age) who took either pla-
cebo or a DHA supplement for 8 weeks. The boys who took DHA
showed increased functional brain activity during a cognitive task,
and their level of activation correlated directly with their blood
DHA levels.10 This suggests that DHA helps the learning process
in children. This research has signifi cant implications, since early
academic success helps to build confi dence and set the stage for
future college and career performance.
Insuffi cient DHA levels have been implicated in a number of
childhood cognitive and developmental disorders such as ADHD,
dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorders.12, 13 Supplementation
with omega-3s, especially in combination with certain omega-6
fatty acids, has been found to improve behavior and ADHD symp-
toms.14-18 Not enough research has been done on autism spectrum
disorders to determine whether omega-3 supplementation would
also be helpful for these children.19
Supplemental DHA and EPA is available as fi sh oil or oil derived
from lab-grown algae. I recommend using the algae-based supple-
ments, because they are acceptable to vegans and vegetarians, more
sustainable than fi sh or fi sh-derived supplements, and free of the
environmental pollutants that we may ingest from eating fi sh.
C ottage G rove
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