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Oregon Shakespeare Festival stages “The Tempest”

Wayne T. Carr as Caliban performs in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “The Tempest.”
Photo provided by Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Wayne T. Carr as Caliban performs in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “The Tempest.”

UCC literature teachers are finding ways to bring creativity into the classroom. In an attempt to utilize the weather rather than being stuck in classrooms reading Shakespeare, Amy Fair and Jillanne Michell have brought Shakespeare to life for their students. Each year they offer spring and summer term literature classes the chance to attend plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

This year was no exception as literature classes led by Fair and Michell once again traveled the nearly two hours to Ashland to view the OSF production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” on May 13. Students who register for summer term can also view “The Tempest” along with some of Shakespeare’s other well known plays.

“The Tempest,” which runs approximately two and a half hours with intermission, is a story of redemption as the former duke of Milan, Prospero, attempts to restore his daughter’s rightful place as the princess of Milan. Standing in his way are old enemies who banished Prospero to a deserted island 12 years earlier. Using magic he has learned during his banishment, Prospero raises a fierce sea storm that forces his enemies onto the island, thus forcing an encounter with their old foe Prospero.

“The Tempest” is believed to have been written between 1611 and 1612; the play is widely considered as the last major play Shakespeare wrote. The work is known for its diversity of themes and relevant social conflicts, such as the concept of colonialism.

In anticipation of the play’s production, instructors Fair and Michell assigned their respective classes to read the play. Students were urged to closely follow the performance and see how it compared to the version read in class. Fair noted a difference.

“No one really ended up in a bad situation at the end of the play; wrongs were righted or forgiven, love overcame revenge, and the world was happy again. To me, there is a little more up and down in the play as I’ve read it on the page, [whereas] OSF’s Tempest was a kinder, gentler Tempest than I expected,” Fair said.

Michell also offered insight into the dramatic difference live action can make in a play’s interpretation.

“Not only are the actors fantastic, but the technical aspects of the theater, including the costumes, the lighting, the sound, all work together to create a world-class theater experience. It’s always a worthwhile experience to read a good play, but seeing a live performance of a play, especially after having read it, vividly illustrates how flexible and slippery language is,” Michell said.

This slippery language is a major player in the magic of Shakespearian plays. Student Cameron DuBoise commented on the tricky language used throughout “The Tempest”.

“It was hard to follow because they were speaking the way Shakespeare wrote,” DuBoise said.

Fair’s student Cody Caddock discussed the comparison between the play he read for class and the OSF production, held in Angus Bowmer Theatre. “I thought the play was very well set up. It had enough humor to keep me interested while still staying accurate to the story,” Caddock said.

Stage design intrigued both the students and faculty who attended. The minimal stage relied on stellar lighting and several stage tricks. Among these tricks was a pull away floor panel that allowed actors and objects to magically appear on stage through the floor.

“I enjoyed “The Tempest.” I found the minimalist set suited the play, and I thought the actors were all great,” Fair said.

The play wasn’t the only attraction as many students were excited to visit Ashland, a city UCC student David Henry likes to call “the best city in Oregon.” Several students gave overwhelming responses to their experiences in the city.

English 105 student Julie Lee is a veteran of the Shakespeare Festival and had only positive comments about Ashland.

“Ashland has always been one of my favorite towns to visit. I love the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and have seen several plays there; it’s always fun. The quaint town has everything you could ask for. Good food, small shops and great places to have fun for the whole family,” Lee said.

For students interested in experiencing Shakespeare firsthand, future opportunities are available. During the 2014 summer term, Amy Fair will be teaching English 105: Introduction to Literature as well as English 201: Shakespeare, both of which will offer students the chance to see plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Summer English 105 and 201 students will be able to see “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “Richard III,” as well as “The Tempest.”

Along with viewing Shakespeare’s plays, summer students will also have the opportunity to watch “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Water By the Spoonful” plus can go on a backstage tour through OSF’s esteemed theaters.

Both courses listed above offer students the chance to experience world-class play productions all while earning 3 college credits. Tickets to the shows are included in student fees and are purchased at a group discount; however, there will only be a limited amount of tickets available for each play.

Students interested in joining the classes should contact Amy Fair in the English department.