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Hamlet and Snooki mix well for Lake Oswego High students

by: VERN UYETAKE Rene Millan leads the class through an excercise using a motion to express a feeling.

Can Shakespeare survive in the age of Snooki?

Doris Wirtz has made it her mission to assure that he does.

With some help from her friends in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, she brought "Hamlet" (after a fashion) to hundreds of students on Tuesday.

For Wirtz, an English teacher for 20 years at Lake Oswego High, offering Shakespeare in the school auditorium is a wonderful way to promote her cause.

'Since we're so heavily invested in teaching Shakespeare, it is great to see Shakespeare in real life. It's a great educational opportunity for the kids.

'Shakespeare is complex, and you need all of the tools you can. This is a way to make it exciting.'

The dynamic duo of David Thompson and Rene Millan, actors with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, did exactly that. With sometimes blinding speed, they used caps, hats, crowns, swords and other props that zapped Shakespeare into the teenage bloodstream.

Ad-libs were a big help too. Instead of Hamlet being distraught over Ophelia, the doomed Dane is crushed when he catches Snooki in a hot tub with three guys in Tigard.

Who knows? If Shakespeare were around today he might be writing for "Jersey Shore." After all, he always scored big ratings back in his day.

But for all of their hijinks, the purpose of Thompson and Millan is quite serious. They want to win over the students to a love of The Bard.

'We want to show the students that they are a vital part of what is happening on stage,' Thompson said. 'It's their imaginations that are creating great theater.'

'We don't want them to be shaken by Shakespeare's imagery. So often they see things expressed like 'I'm dying' and 'she's beautiful.' We use in the images of Shakespeare with pieces from 'Henry V.''

In other words, death and beauty get the descriptions they truly deserve.

'I was impressed with how attentive the students were. They were really with it,' Millan said. 'Even the so-called 'slacker kids' didn't disturb anyone else.'

Thompson added, 'Students rise to whatever level you set for them.'

The root of all this blooming love for Shakespeare at LOHS is Wirtz. The Shakespearean spell overcame her when she was just a 16-year-old sophomore at Centennial High School.

'We watched an electronic presentation of Richard Burton playing Hamlet at the old Paramount Theater,' Wirtz said.

Before she knew it she was writing in iambic pentameter.

'I was hooked,' she said. 'I loved it.'

For Wirtz it eventually was all's well that ends well, because she has now brought Ashland actors to share Shakespeare with students many times. It looks like Shakespeare will survive in the 21st century.

But what the kids may not realize is that they are just as important to the presentation of Shakespeare as the actors.

At the end of the performance, Thompson told the students, 'Everything you feel is sent up to the stage and is felt by the actors. You guys are so artistic. You are creating the work with us.'