In early August, two students from the English Department at University of the West, Michael Baumann Rett and Yu-Yun Chen, along with UWest English Department Director Jennifer Avila, traveled to the Shakespeare Theater Festival in Ashland, Oregon. They stayed at Southern Oregon University in Ashland for seven nights with students and faculty from Pasadena City College, the organizers of the trip.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is a not-for-profit professional theatre founded in 1935 by Angus L. Bowmer, with roots tracing back to the Chautauqua movement in the late 19th century in southern Oregon. The OSF hosts the oldest existing full-scale  Elizabethan stage in the Western Hemisphere, built on the site of the old Chautauqua theatre established in 1893. The eight-month season now runs through October where they run productions in two indoor theaters and one outdoor.

Their mission statement reads: “Inspired by Shakespeare’s work and the cultural richness of the United States, we reveal our collective humanity through illuminating  interpretations of new and classic plays, deepened by the kaleidoscope of rotating repertory.”

Last year in 2017, the OSF reached a total attendance of over 381,000 people with 82% capacity in all three theaters. 88% of audience members travel more than 125 miles to attend the festival.

The group saw five plays during the trip in two indoor theaters— the Angus Bowmer Theatre and the Thomas Theatre. The plays were: Snows in Midsummer, a classical Chinese drama which was changed into a modern ghost story exploring the legacy of trauma;  the play Henry V,  the story of King Henry V of England where Shakespeare’s version focuses on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years’ War; the play Romeo and Juliet, the classical love tragedy; the play Othello, the famous tragedy about race and; the play Sense and Sensibility, the romance story written by Jane Austin. The trip also included a “prologue” workshop before every play to engage the students with an in-depth introduction of historical and cultural contexts, backstage tours, park talks, lectures, classes, workshops, pre- and post-show conversations, actor meet-and-greets, and a free “Green Show” before the evening shows.

Besides watching the plays, the students also had a packed itinerary with a number of different tourist activities. The trip included a trip to Crater Lake National Park, which has the deepest lake in America, in addition to shopping, restaurants, hikes, and walks in the beautiful Lithia Park in Ashland. The students felt it was a trip they will always remember and hope others in the English degree program will be able to experience the opportunity in the future. If you are interested in attending, please contact Professor Avila (jennifera@uwest.edu) for more information about future trips being planned in the department.