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Sitting and sitting, watching and seeing: Ashland and Sea Ranch

Sitting and sitting, watching and seeing: Ashland and Sea Ranch

In July, we finally made it to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and it was worth the wait, well worth the 350-mile drive north. We took our pups, and found a friendly, too-good-to-be-true dog sitter in Ashland named Susan. Yay, Susan!

When I first proposed a trip to OSF two years ago, my husband begged for a vacation away from theater, since he spent most of his waking hours overseeing a busy one on the job. So we rented a house at Sea Ranch and sat by the Pacific for 10 days. This time though? We made it to both OSF and Sea Ranch. It was the perfect vacation for us.

No matter how much we protest, Peter and I are dyed-in-the–wool theater people, and even though I’m taking a break from performing and directing to concentrate on writing, I am without question the best audience member you could ask for. I laugh loudly, cry a lot if it’s sad (or bad), and I genuinely appreciate all the hard work that’s gone into making a theater event happen. So I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing four different shows at OSF, and seeing all those veteran actors doing their thing in a variety of roles.

It was wonderful.

From director Mary Zimmerman’s musical production of Guys and Dolls, through a new play about a pickpocket in Victorian England called Fingersmith, then onto a delectable showing of Shakespeare’s Pericles, all the way to the bitter end of a huge outdoor spectacle of The Count of Monte Cristo, we sat and sat and saw and saw some more, genuinely enjoying what that terrific company of actors had to offer.

But when I say “bitter end,” I’m actually referring to how we felt after sitting for all those hours, because our “ends” were worn out! I mean, how could they not be after sitting through three of the four productions that turned out to run several hours each? Yes, we chose large plays (the musical was delightful and mercifully not as long), so our posteriors began to feel the wear and tear, despite the comfort of the seats in all of the festival’s theaters.

Four shows in two days is just a lot of sitting. No complaints, just a deeply felt observation. Deeply.

But then?

We drove to Sea Ranch.

This gorgeous community of planned houses, recreation centers, and other amenities north of San Francisco has an illustrious history, filled with American Indian lore, Russian explorers, and refugee hippies. But the part we’re fortunate enough to take part in started in 1963, when some architects and land developers created a collection of dwellings just south of Gualala that paid homage to the land and its surrounding waters, insisting on designs that blended with the magnificent local topography. The result is beautiful to look at, and these days, possible to rent.

Beautifully appointed properties are available for short- and longer-term stays, and we’ve rented several places there over the past few years, through an agency called Rams Head Realty (707-884-1427,

Each house we’ve rented has been a delight, each in its own way, and this visit was no exception at Stoney House.

Perched on the edge of heavily wooded lands, every room has a view of the ocean, including the guest quarters. Outside our master suite was a wonderful hot tub, and with a chilled glass of local wine, I enjoyed that a lot. So did my exhausted posterior! Oh, the feel of fresh ocean breezes wafting over bare skin, as the warm waters of the bubbling hot tub relaxed all my tired, theater-going muscles. Pure pleasure every time, it restored my desire to sit through even the longest play.

We’ve been to Sea Ranch fairly regularly since that first time years ago when we went there to celebrate a friend’s birthday (the hosts rented three houses for all guests to enjoy), but each visit seems the best. Stoney House welcomed us warmly, and we barely moved from it the entire week — only to shop for groceries, make a trip to the local wine tastings, and enjoy a small Mexican restaurant we’ve discovered in Anchor Bay. We reclined ourselves in front of the living room panoramic windows, and stayed there for hours on end, never tiring of the view.

And so, we healed from our brief but tiring excursion into the world of Shakespeare and other theatrical delights.

Of course, we shall go back often to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s one of the treasures of living on the West Coast.

As for Sea Ranch?

It’s where I want my ashes scattered.

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