Department of Theatre and Dance travels to Shakespeare Festival
The Santa Clara
April 6, 2017
Spring break during college often conjures up clichéd images of Cabo San Lucas and beaches strewn with crinkled red cups. But that was not the destination for eight students and three faculty members in Santa Clara’s Theatre and Dance Department. Rather than journey south to warmer climates, they headed north for an immersive week of theatre at the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF).
Tucked away in the small town of Ashland, OSF has made quite the name for itself in the world of regional repertory theatre, performing 11 plays each year—three or four of which are by William Shakespeare and six or seven by a collection of classic and modern playwrights—all within the course of eight months.
And after 82 years, the festival continues to be a fan favorite. In fact, just two years ago, it welcomed its 20 millionth visitor.
Kimberly Mohne Hill, an acting and voice professor here at Santa Clara, sums up OSF best: “It’s a standard pilgrimage for theatre people.”
After last year’s first-ever Theatre and Dance Department Spring Break Artistic Immersion Trip to New York, Ashland seemed the perfect choice as a follow-up trip, exposing students to a different theatre world outside of the frenetic pace of Broadway and the Big Apple.
But beyond exposing students to new and different works, the immersion trips also offered students the opportunity to connect with other Santa Clara alumni. As Barbara Murray, Santa Clara’s costume design professor, noted, “(These immersion trips) developed out of the idea that it’s important for our students to see what the alums are doing and how they are working.”
In fact, during their first night in Ashland, the eight students and three faculty—Hill, Murray and Aldo Billingslea—had dinner with not just the OSF director of education, Joan Langley, but also with other Santa Clara alumni from the Ashland area.
The meal immediately established a network for the students, something senior theatre student Lexsi Chitwood found incredibly helpful, as she noted, “Theatre is such a small world. It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
During the rest of the trip, students attended a backstage tour of one of the theatres, engaged in a discussion with Lakin Valdez—the son of famed Chicano playwright Luis Valdez—and had a conversation on diversity with alum and OSF resident teaching artist Carolina Morones. They also attended two workshops—one focused on text and the other on stage combat.
As sophomore Derek Sikkema said, these discussions and workshops touched upon a variety of issues and technicalities, ranging from “how multiple, rapid costume changes are managed (to) the intricacies of fake blood on stage.”
The highlight of the five-day trip for many, however, was the plays themselves. The group saw a total of four productions: “Julius Caesar,” “Henry IV: Part I,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles.”
With the play’s subjects as diverse as the immigrant experience in the United States and the rise and fall of a political leader in Ancient Rome, the performances presented the students with great acting as well as thought-provoking messages, many pertinent today.
“The shows really developed my understanding of present-day America in an age of systemic gender and race problems, issues of power and people-worship and conflict across generations,” Sikkema said.
Additionally, Hill said the the performances really rounded out the experience for her as well, and honed her skills as both an artist and an instructor in acting.
“Just getting to see four amazing plays in succession, and being able to go to really high-caliber theatre and see what we teach our students practiced on such a high level—to inspire both them and us to do better in everything that we do in our field—was awesome,” Hill said.
And even though the immersion was aimed at educating the students, Hill also felt she gained more insight into the world of theatre.
“Every time we go see theatre, there is always something that a professional or an instructor like me can take from it,” Hill said. “It’s about the continued focus on really working on our craft and really mastering this field that we are teaching our students. It’s also about really embracing the idea that there is such a thing as mastery and that you can, with a lot of hard work and devotion, master your craft to such an extent that you can play 160 performances of a show over the course of an eight-month season, like they do at Ashland.”
Contact Maura Turcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.