Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trip to Ashland!

After much planning, changing of plans, refining plans, etc., etc., the RRYT group headed up to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Wednesday, March 23. We had a good trip up with just a bit of snow/rain going over Mount Shasta.

After a quick tour of the hostel, we were warmly greeted by 7th grade students and their chaperones from the Waldorf School of Mendocino. It seemed within just minutes they had become fast friends . . . to the point that by the 8 pm show, they all wanted to sit together for the performance.

Julius Caesar was intense. I was a bit concerned for our youngest student who I realized had probably not seen such a dramatic performance with so much death and blood. However, after the show, she was so enthusiastic, asking questions and sharing how much she had enjoyed the show.

The next morning we experienced a bit of drama and tragedy when one of the students from the Waldorf School jumped off a bunk to land on a pencil. It went right through his foot! He was amazingly calm about this fact. He was scooted off to the Emergency Room and had to miss the Student Tour. Later that afternoon, he proudly showed all of the other students the pencil that the hospital staff had preserved for him in a plastic baggie.

At the School Tour, we learned about the history of the Festival, got to see the backstage areas, learned about the making of costumes, props and sets, and watched an amazing fast-speed video that showed everything the stage crew does to tear down and re-set the stage in between performances.

Thursday afternoon, we saw To Kill a Mockingbird. Having recently read the book, the general consensus from the students was that they liked this play even better than Julius Caesar. Of course, they were a bit disappointed that some of their favorites scenes from the book were not included. The role of Bob Ewell was played by a deaf actor. This was an interesting addition to the story, as his daughter, Mayella, was the on-stage interpreter of the signing that he did. After the show, we attended a special post-matinee discussion with the actor of this role, Howie Seago. We learned a lot about his experiences of being a deaf actor. He, too, wanted to know how we liked the play and the modification of the character. In the book, Bob Ewell is ignorant, uneducated, so even the sign language was adapted to that of someone who would not have had the benefit of attending a special school for the deaf to learn sign language.

On Friday, we saw a comedy: The Imaginary Invalid. This was a hilariousl comedy with many layers of humor -- some very appreciated by the students (much of the bathroom humor) -- and some that sailed right over their heads. As funny as the play was, underlying all of the humor was a message best described from Director Tracy Young's program notes: " . . . the play, for me, is really about how we choose to live. Do we choose to give in to sickness and sadness, or do we choose to carry on, to chose life?" So while taken by all of the humor, I had tears of joy in my eyes as the poignancy of the message was sealed by the play's finale.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival sent us off with the lightness of comedy as we sped down the road intent on beating stormy weather.

But not only did we learn about the art of theatre while in Ashland, I'd like to think we learned a bit more about ourselves and about each other. I saw the students connecting with each other in new and meaningful ways. I saw them interacting with the other hostelers, learning about different people from different places. They learned to share space in the kitchen and the bathroom, to take turns, to clean up (washing dishes by hand was new for some of them!), and to be patient with each other.

It was an amazing trip and this summer I will be returning with my Women's Group to see a couple of more plays including The Imaginary Invalid again.

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