Your Weekend Reader for April 15-16

by | Apr 15, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland was hard-hit, like so many other arts organizations, by the COVID-19 pandemic — and, like many other arts organizations, it’s still struggling. But this week’s news that the festival needs to raise $2.5 million to save its 2023 season — and has suspended planning for its 2024 season — still came as a shock. The festival also has had to endure with wildfires that filled Southern Oregon skies and forced cancellation of some performances in addition to criticism (much of it unjustified) directed at new artistic director Nataki Garrett, who is emphasizing more contemporary works. The announcement came a week before the festival was scheduled to open the first shows of its season, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Rent” — two shows the festival undoubtedly was counting on to attract audiences. The festival may also be suffering from self-inflicted wounds: Sources told The Oregonian that it’s trying to sort out accounting issues that may date back years.

In other theater news, Sunday’s performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway will be its last — the beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is closing after a staggering 35-year run that included 13,981 performances. (I know what you’re thinking: The pikers couldn’t put together another 19 shows to get to an even 14,000?) I’m not a huge fan of the show, but these statistics still are incredible: More than 20 million people have seen the show, which has employed 6,500 people over its run (that’s the population of a small Oregon county). It’s grossed some $1.3 billion over the years. NPR’s Jeff Lunden has an enjoyable story about the show’s closing.

There is bad news this week about the Cascadia subduction zone (of course, every bit of news about the Cascadia Subduction Zone is bad, unless it’s an unexpected finding that scientists were wrong about it all along). The zone, as you know, is the fault lurking off the West Coast that eventually will let loose with a massive (and geologically overdue) earthquake. This week, scientists at the University of Washington announced that the zone is leaking fluid, which is like lubricant — less lubricant, explained one of the study’s authors, means stress can build to create a damaging quake. The press, as you might imagine, jumped all over this with the serious tone you would expect from sober journalistic outlets: The Daily Beast, for example, labeled the finding a “harbinger of doom.” And Stephen Colbert joked about it on “The Late Show.” The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Julie Evenson puts it all in perspective for you in this story.

Former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury died Friday of unexpected medical complications; he was 73, and had lived with multiple sclerosis for 40 years. Among Bradbury’s accomplishments, none may be more important than the work he did to push Oregon toward a vote-by-mail system. (In many ways, Bradbury was building upon work done by Del Riley, the longtime Linn County clerk.) Here’s a news obit about Bradbury from OPB.

Lee Enterprises, which owns the Corvallis Gazette-Times and the Albany Democrat-Herald, last week laid off more newsroom employees at the company’s Montana newspapers: One reporter at my old paper, the Missoulian, returned from her mandatory two-week furlough to be told that she was being laid off. It’s not clear to me if this is the just the company’s recent wave of layoffs finally reaching Montana (at least two newsrooms positions were cut in Albany-Corvallis earlier this year) or whether it’s a fresh wave of layoffs.

Speaking of Montana, its legislature now is the first in the nation to pass a bill banning TikTok. But passing the bill might be the easiest part of banning the social network, reports David McCabe of The New York Times in this piece. (Times stories are available only to subscribers, but I can send you a free link to the story if you just leave your email address in the comments section, below.)

NPR, still smarting from being labeled (almost entirely incorrectly) “government-funded media” on Twitter, announced this week that it was “turning away from Twitter.” But it’s still working through ways to keep its 17 million Twitter subscribers informed: Here’s a story from the Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen.

Here’s a long and fascinating story from The Atlantic about various academic studies concluding that ice cream, in some cases, might actually be good for you — and how scientists are quietly downplaying those findings. It’s obviously more complicated than that summary makes it sound — and it doesn’t mean you should run out and stuff your freezer with Haagen-Dazs — but it does have something to say about how scientists sometimes can turn a blind eye to findings that run counter to conventional wisdom. (Alas, the story is available only to Atlantic subscribers.)

Also this week, I was planning to share this funny story from The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Lizzy Acker about how Oregon is the seventh-most introverted state in the nation, but I didn’t want to intrude, you know?

That’s it for this week. If you want to connect, I’ll be the guy in the corner reading alone. But why would you want to connect?

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