Festival actors delight students, audience

by: PHOTO BY JEFF SPIEGEL - Among the activities done in the workshop was an acting out of still image scenes from Shakespeares day.While adults have long complained about understanding the changing language of teenagers today, there’s one thing they can all agree on — no one understood Shakespeare.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, however, is out to change that.

As part of their annual outreach, the festival sent actors and instructors out to a number of schools in Oregon, Washington, California and Kansas, one of them being Estacada High School.

The two instructors, Orion Bradshaw and Laura Montes, put on a performance for the schools early in the week, held a number of workshops with high school classes and then put on a community performance Thursday night.

“I just really like showing the kids and helping them discover that Shakespeare can be very accessible to everyone,” Montes said. “Sometimes its by performing it or letting them discover its not stuffy and boring.”

For Bradshaw, the feeling was similar.

“One of the coolest parts is using works of arguably the best wordsmith ever and helping these kids find their own voice,” he said.

Even the two instructors took two very different paths to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with Bradshaw growing up in Ashland and having spent five years in the group, while Montes is in her first year, hailing from New Mexico.

Bradshaw also is part of a Portland-based theater group, while Montes is now a New York-based actress.

With the festival, however, the pair spends four weeks rehearsing for their tour before spending six-straight weeks on the road across Oregon and Washington.

Each day, the duo met with English classes from across the school and sent them through a number of Shakespeare-involved exercises.

First, Bradshaw gave the students a brief history about Shakespeare, and applied some context to some of the exercises they would be partaking in.

Next up, in the spirit of Shakespeare, the group was divided into teams and given the task of inventing words based on a given definition. Next, the role was switched as students were given the task of guessing the definition of a Shakespearean word.

The given word was “porringer."

Some of the definitions created were, “a messenger," “someone who makes shoes," “oatmeal bowl" and “scavenger” among others. The correct answer was an oatmeal bowl.

Next up in the workshop, students had to stand up and start acting a bit as they were shown scenes from everyday life in Shakespeare’s time. Then, they were asked to act out these scenes as a class without communicating verbally.

Finally, the session ended with a reading of a scene from “The Taming of the Shrew” in which students were paired up for a short dialogue.

“One of the coolest parts is getting kids to stand up and read this stuff aloud, rather than sitting and reading it,” Bradshaw said. “We’re all about teaching kids to stand up ad do it.”

For AP English teacher Jeff Mellema, the impact this program has on his students is significant.

“It’s a nice change from the typical class,” he said. “Shakespeare isn’t meant to be read, but to be seen and acted and this is more in line with that.”

Mellema said Shakespeare is taught throughout a student’s time in Estacada, beginning with “Romeo and Juliet” freshman year. While sophomore and junior year, teachers are allowed to select their own reading materials, seniors will also read Hamlet.

“It’s important because every piece of literature we read is derived from Shakespeare,” Mellema said. “Now they have a point of knowledge they can reach back to.”

The Estacada High School theatre program also makes a trip each year to the festival in Ashland. Next year, the festival will feature four shows: “The Taming of the Shrew,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “King Lear” and “Cymbeline."

For more information on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, visit

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