Speak the Speech, I Pray You!: The Shakespeare Club Takes On Ashland

by Lucie Duffort

At the end of September, SHC’s Shakespeare Club sent 25 students and four teachers on the yearly trip to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. There they saw live theater, met actors, and learned about English history. Kara Donnelly ’19, Mary Kyne ’20 and Christiana Wong ’19 share their experience:

How was this trip different from being in the Shakespeare Club during the rest of the school year?

Christiana: This trip, which I have attended for the past two years, has been a great way for me to set aside time to take a step away from the regular school day. I have gotten to know other students better and I have also been able to see many plays, all while learning to appreciate Shakespeare and theater even more. Each of these shows transports me into another world outside of school and away from home.

Is it hard to follow Shakespeare?

Mary Kyne: I’m more of an all-around theater person [Mary will play Aunt Abby in the upcoming SHC production of Arsenic and Old Lace], and I initially was worried I’d fall behind with Shakespeare. But the way the actors play it you can really follow. Especially with the modern flair brought to the many productions—there would be more incorporation of text messages and familiar things that made it much easier and more accessible.

What were the highlights for you?

Kara Donnelly: This year, we got the pleasure of seeing Henry V with virtually the same cast as the prequels [from the previous year’s trip], Henry IV Pt 1 and Pt 2, including the titular character. To be able to see Prince Hal's transition into King Henry with the same actor, Daniel Jose Molina, has been an incredible journey that I don't believe that many get to experience.

What was your favorite piece?

Mary Kyne: A Snow in Midsummer [Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig]. I think it was a premier in Ashland. It was interesting because it went back and forth between past and present, the old wives’ tale of the town and how one person’s life and death affected feuding within it. They had a minimal set, but at one execution scene the white sheets at the background got splattered with red, and tons of light and projection morphed the space. This dramatic change carried through the rest of the production very effectively.

Kara Donnelly: Half of the group got the chance to see The Way the Mountain Moved [Idris Goodwin], a new play about many different stories of those out in the western deserts, all centered around the story of scientists trying to figure how to route the Transcontinental Railroad through the Rocky Mountains. Besides the riveting and engaging storyline, the production's impressive use of projections, minimalistic set, and intimacy created by the small Thomas Theatre created a very enjoyable viewing experience.

Christiana Wong: In Henry V, the actors and actresses were able to convey such intense emotion throughout the plot. The play took place in such an intimate theater, in which the audience could feel as if they were a part of the show. In fact, Shakespeare’s words in the Prologue of Henry V recognize the audience, calling for them to use their imagination and engage in the performance as the play unfolds. Furthermore, in such an intimate setting, I was able to feel such a raw emotion from each of the characters as they screamed, cheered and cried. This intense emotion created this space where I could feel that deep connection to this moving story that existed beyond the complex Shakespearean language.

Students love this yearly trip. They and club moderator Paul Barnes are quick to point out that the experience of theater in this community extends beyond the stage. Interacting in organized events such as a meeting with actor Chris Butler, who played Othello, as well as being able to approach the players on the street or even in the grocery store truly brings the whole picture of professional theater to life.

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