Prospero (Derrick Lee Weeden, left,) makes peace with King Alonso (Armando Duran) in the 2007 Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of 'The Tempest.'

OSF season closes with record attendance

Libby Appel this week wrapped up 12 years of leading the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with news of record-breaking attendance for 2007.

The OSF's season closed Sunday with ticket sales for the year of 404,730, or 90 percent of capacity, and ticket revenues at $15,487,632.

Appel, who was awarded the title of artistic director emeritus by the OSF board in September, had led the company, one of the country's oldest professional regional theaters, since 1995. In her final season Appel selected a playbill of diverse offerings she dubbed "a parting gift" to her company and audience.

Total attendance in the Angus Bowmer Theatre was 211,450, or 89 percent of capacity. Attendance at the New Theatre was 69,078, or 86 percent of capacity, and attendance in the Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion, which has the heart of its season in the summer months, was 124,202, or 96 percent of capacity. The figures are up about three percentage points from 2006.

"We think it's quite good," said the OSF's Amy Richard Tuesday. "Especially when you consider how long the plays run (from three months to more than eight months), and the fact that they go up against each other."

Top box office hits were Shakespeare's comedy "The Taming of the Shrew" and the new work "Tracy's Tiger," each of which sold 99 percent of its seats. Moliere's classic "Tartuffe" was close behind at 97 percent.

Shakespeare dominated the top spots, with "Romeo and Juliet" filling 95 percent of its seats, "The Tempest" 94 percent and "As You Like It" 89 percent.

Tom Stoppard's "On the Razzle" came in at 91 percent of capacity. Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard," an Appel favorite, did just 80 percent. August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean" finished at 84 percent.

Newer plays finished at or near the bottom, with Lisa Loomer's "Distracted" at 82 percent and David Lindsay-Abaire's "Rabbit Hole" at 76. New plays typically don't perform as well as classics ("Tracy's Tiger" was a vigorous exception) in terms of attendance, and "Rabbit Hole" had the added box office handicap of a story centered around a dead child.

Appel directed two of her favorite plays, "The Cherry Orchard" in a new adaptation she created, and "The Tempest." She put three new plays in the New Theatre, one of them a world premiere, the wildly popular "Tracy's Tiger," commissioned by the OSF and written by OSF company members for the OSF acting ensemble.

As Appel prepared to step down during the 2007 season she worked through the artistic transition with incoming Artistic Director Bill Rauch. His inaugural season was announced in March 2007 and will open Feb. 15, 2008.

The OSF continued to diversify the acting company during Appel's tenure, as well as hire directors and designers of color. Another component of her term was a commitment to literary development. OSF expanded its commissioning of new plays and adaptations. Appel also commissioned several translations and adaptations, including such well-known plays as "The Three Musketeers," "The Good Person of Szechuan" and this season's "The Cherry Orchard."

Much of the new work has been produced in OSF's New Theatre, which opened in 2002. The state-of-the-art room has enabled OSF to change the audience configuration from arena, to three-quarter thrust, to avenue seating.

Rauch will present in the Angus Bowmer Theatre Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to open the 2008 season. The member presale begins Nov. 5, and general sales will begin Nov. 26. Visit or call 482-4331.

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