Editor’s note: Face coverings (ages 5 and up) are required at all indoor and outdoor public spaces statewide, regardless of vaccination status. Learn more here.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is known for its world-class productions including plays, tours and immersive experiences for all ages. Led by artistic director Nataki Garrett, the Ashland festival is home to the largest resident acting company in the U.S., attracting fans of the Bard from across the globe. (Check out the winter production of It’s Christmas, Carol! set for Nov. 23, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022 as well as the full 2022 season lineup of in-person and virtual shows happening April-December 2022.)
But there’s much more to theater in this region than the Shakespeare scene. Across Southern Oregon, you’ll find an incredible lineup of theaters showcasing all types of live entertainment, from magic shows and comedy to Broadway hits and rock bands. Many of the theaters are historic and rely on sustained community support. Here’s where to catch a live show on your next Southern Oregon road trip.
Grants Pass may be Oregon’s whitewater-rafting capital, but it also has great arts and culture. At the art deco-style Rogue Theatre, built in 1938, upcoming shows include Zepparella, an all-female rock tribute band; Overtime, an innovative artist blending hip-hop, country and rock; stand-up comedy from Anthony Jarvis and Mike Guido; and Petty Thievery, covering Tom Petty’s best hits.
It’s always a ghoulish good time at Frightmare Theatre. This nonprofit-run haunted house has taken thrills seriously every autumn since 2010. In the old Movies Six Theatre, you’re guaranteed to get spooked — but don’t worry. Refunds are available if you immediately regret your decision. They also offer a less-scary option for brave youngsters.
The Craterian Theater is housed in a beautiful 1924 Spanish colonial-style building named after nearby Crater Lake. This is a membership-based, not-for-profit theater that’s proud to showcase the local culture and community talents as well as out-of-town arts groups. Upcoming shows include Disney’s High School Musical (appropriate for all ages); an epic R-rated magic show; Paula Poundstone’s masterful comedy; and Catapult’s magic shadows, which transform dancers’ bodies into shapes, landmarks and animals to wow all ages.
Also in Medford is the Randall Theatre Company. This show hall is dedicated to bringing Broadway-style hits to the community in its new home, the Ghostlight Playhouse on Main Street. Enjoy their series of concert-style revues in fall 2021, including Broadway or Bust. Broadway’s Best Bad Girls is next, then Waiting Star — a new musical in the style of Hollywood’s golden age.
The Holly Theatre in Medford just celebrated its 90th anniversary. This booming theater from the 1930s closed in the 1980s due to movie-industry changes. However, the building’s exterior was fully restored in 2011, receiving the city of Medford’s Historic Preservation Award in 2013. Organizers are currently fundraising to finish the interior restoration. Walk by this historic building and check out a video tour online.
Medford’s Collaborative Theatre Project is an inclusive, local theater promoting community outreach and offering educational programs for everyone. Upcoming attractions include The Book of Will, a story about Shakespeare’s works; Dickens’ Great Expectations; and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. They also put on Radio Days, a unique act in which the actors perform a live radio show.
Talent may only have 6,500 residents, but there’s no shortage of talent here. Camelot Theatre Company is known for its support of amateurs and professionals alike, offering training to aspiring actors of all ages. Founded in 1982, Camelot began in an old feed store, which later saw a state-of-the-art renovation. Diversity and inclusion are top priorities here, exemplified in the series Rogue Lives, which features “real people, real stories” on Southern Oregon’s PBS. Upcoming shows include spotlights on legends Aretha Franklin and Bette Midler.
Southern Oregon University hosts the Oregon Center for the Arts, where passionate students can chase their acting dreams. Although live events are currently on pause during COVID-19, you can watch amazing virtual performances on their YouTube channel.
In a renovated 1911 First Baptist Church, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, also in Ashland, features a magnificent crystal chandelier and many performances year-round. In fall 2021 shows include Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and Poirot: Murder on the Links, followed by Christmas, Contigo (suitable for all ages). The dinner theater has a national reputation for excellence, keeping their 140-seat space packed. Locals know not to miss the amazing desserts and the delight of enjoying great food while watching a riveting performance.
Klamath Falls is home to the multicultural, multidisciplinary Ross Ragland Theater. Since 1989 the theater has offered educational programs and extraordinary shows in their 740+ seat space including folk festivals, operas, repertory theater, acrobatics, Disney hits and popular musical acts. It’s also home to the region’s signature event, the Klamath Independent Film Festival, held each September.
The oldest community theater group in the Klamath Basin is the Linkville Playhouse. This all-volunteer, nonprofit organization is passionate about bringing the arts to the community. Unfortunately, in May there was a fire above their lobby and shows are currently delayed. Check their Facebook page for updates.