Over recent summers our highly talented theater teacher, Heidi Abbott, has been taking students to see Shakespeare plays onstage in Ashland, Oregon. For the past three years Hamlin has also been hosting visiting actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival traces its roots back to the Chautauqua movement, which brought culture and entertainment to rural areas of the country in the late 19th century. Ashland’s first Chautauqua building—erected in 1893, mostly by townspeople—saw its first performance on July 5. In 1905, the building was enlarged to accommodate an audience of 1,500. Families traveled from all over Southern Oregon and Northern California to see such performers as John Phillip Sousa and William Jennings Bryan during the Ashland Chautauqua’s 10-day seasons.
The Oregon Shakespearean Festival was officially born on July 2, 1935 with a production of Twelfth Night. The Festival presented The Merchant of Venice on the 3rd and Twelfth Night again on the 4th. Reserved seats cost $1, with general admission of $.50 for adults and $.25 for children.
From mid-October through mid-December, teams of teaching artists tour to schools and community centers throughout Oregon, Washington, California, and beyond. Each team is made up of two professionals with the skill and passion to engage language arts students from diverse backgrounds through live performances and active workshops.
On November 16, the visiting actors performed a 2-person performance based on Romeo and Juliet and led 3 workshops for our students.
The Romeo and Juliet piece focused on Juliet’s journey and perspective. After the performance Cedric and Annie (the actors) asked Hamlin students questions like: Was Juliet afraid? What did you learn from Juliet’s perspective? Students provided thoughtful answers, speaking about internal versus external conflicts, while also sharing that they hadn’t considered Juliet’s viewpoint as much before (because Romeo’s role is more dominant in Shakespeare’s original play).
To learn more about the Oregon Shakespeare Company, please visit: https://www.osfashland.org/