‘Shakespeare in the Park’ returns to Nehalem Bay

Something is rotten in the state park of Nehalem.

That, or Hamlet is coming.

By Jordan Wolfe

Portland-based Original Practice Shakespeare Festival is bringing Shakespeare in the Park back to Nehalem Bay State Park for the sixth straight year.

“It’s more like a sporting event than a sit-down quiet play,” said Brian Allard, artistic director of OPS Fest. “The different thing is we don’t rehearse. We improv instead of following text. Back then, they hadn’t invented rehearsing yet. It was the popular entertainment at the time so to draw people back they didn’t want to run the same show.”

Courtesy photo/ Kathleen Kelly
Courtesy photo/ Kathleen Kelly

He added the troupe will bring their two newest shows to perform in Nehalem. “Hamlet” and “The Tempest” will be performed at 7 p.m. on August 12 and August 13, respectively, at the Nehalem Bay Amphitheater in the state park.

“It’s great to get out of Portland,” he said, “The audience is fantastic. People come year after year to see our shows. Normally, we perform on level ground, but in Nehalem we’ll be using an amphitheater, which is significantly unusual for us.”

The performances conflict with two days of the annual Tillamook County Fair, but Geoff Baertlein, Ranger II at Nehalem Bay State Park, said he does not believe it will have a negative impact on their turnout.

Courtesy photo/ Kathleen Kelly
Courtesy photo/ Kathleen Kelly

“It’s something kind of different,” Baertlein said, “It’s cool to offer something from the arts. We get a lot of locals and people staying in the parks to come watch.”

He added the interpretive programs the park offers typically only gets people staying in the parks to attend, but Shakespeare in the Park attracts people living in town.

The ‘Original Practice’ part of the OPS Fest’s name takes a cue from the technique they employ.

“It was rediscovered by Patrick Tucker, who was involved with the New Globe theatre in London,” Allard said, “But was kicked out because his productions were more popular than theirs.”

Courtesy photo/ Kathleen Kelly
Courtesy photo/ Kathleen Kelly

Allard received his training from the New England Shakespeare Festival and has trained people in the Portland-metro to utilize the same technique.

“We have 13 plays in our repertoire,” he said. “Next year, we’ll have 15. We want to have the whole canon in original practice.”

Allard said Shakespeare’s audiences were rowdy and OPS Fest expects the same from theirs.

“What we do is a lot of fun. We depart from the text from time to time,” Allard said of the audience interaction that comes along with the performances. “If you sit in the front, expect to draw attention to yourselves.”

For more information, visit or call Nehalem Bay State Park at 503-368-5943.