Thursday, November 7, 2013

MAS Shakespeare Students Go To Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Story by Frank Villanueva; photos by Sr. Hilda Kleiman

Editor's Note: This is the second of two stories written by our journalism students about this trip.

Seminarians spoke a short prayer - Lord, be with us as we travel this long but anticipated trip - as they started the four-hour car ride on the way to their annual outing to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.  For some, this was their first trip, and for the veterans it was another opportunity to experience all that the festival has to offer.

Drs. Creighton Lindsay and Seymour House have been taking students that double major in literature and philosophy to Ashland for several years.  The idea is to give the students the opportunity to experience the works of Shakespeare in an environment that allows the students to develop their understanding and to experience the awe of this great literary icon.

On Friday night, the seminarians arrived at the Newman Center where they were booked to stay for the three-day weekend.  Shortly after the bags were dropped off and the room and floor areas were selected, they headed to the Standing Stone Brewing Company for dinner.  They were greeted there by Drs. Lindsay and House, their wives Deborah and Paula, Abbot Peter Eberle, O.S.B., and Sr. Hilda Kleiman, O.S.B., of Mount Angel Seminary, and Fr. Angelo Te, pastor of Our Lady of the Mountain Church in Ashland.

The evening was filled with food, fun, laughs and some great in-house made beer.  One highlight of the evening was the fried Brussels sprouts.  Student and third-time participant Gary Bass from the Diocese of Monterey, CA, said, "These were the best Brussels sprouts I have ever tasted."  When dinner had concluded, everyone headed to the Elizabethan Theatre to see A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The shield on the outside of the Elizabethan Theatre that features the Shakespeare plays offered by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival during its 2013 season.

The play was set not in the traditional setting but in the 1960s.  Fourth-year collegian and third-time participant to the Festival Andy Mendoza from the Diocese of Yakima, WA, said, "The character's names and roles were the same but it was nice to see a fresh, more modern take on the play."  Mendoza said, "I think it's very comical, and I like the whole mystery thing about who is going to marry who, and I think it was portrayed very well, and I would recommend this to anyone."

Some shared their likes and dislikes about the play.  Mendoza said, "I really like that you can see it [the play] being portrayed."  First-time participant Paul Grandi, seminarian for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, said, "When you read it you use your imagination to create characters and create scenes but when you see it live it makes it a little better to understand as the characters use facial expressions, dialogue and props to deliver their act."

Tony Lopez and Christopher Schmidt on the stage of the Elizabethan Theatre

On Saturday morning, some seminarians went to experience the backstage of the various theaters while some stayed behind to play bocce ball at the local park.  Then at 1 p.m. everyone met to see King Lear. "The theater we were in was not your traditional theater where the stage is in front of you," Grandi said.  "The stage was in the middle where the audience sat around the main stage so it required a creative use of space and creative placement of actors" to put on this production.  Grandi's favorite part was the depiction of King Lear.

"The actor portrayed King Lear as a kind of ridiculous character as the play starts and when the character of King Lear goes through a great transformation he brings out the emotion of King Lear.  It was portrayed very well," Grandi said.  When the play ended, everyone got together for a photo shoot in front of the theater when King Lear played.  The evening ended with dinner at Pasta Piatti.

The Shakespeare students and faculty outside the Thomas Theater.

On Sunday, those who stayed for the remainder of the trip gathered for Mass at Our Lady of the Mountain Church and then drove back to the seminary.  Many seminarians shared their thoughts about the weekend's festivities and made the four-hour trip seem a lot faster.  It was truly an experience to remember.

Watch the MAS Journalism Blog for several essays on King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream written by this year's Shakespeare students.

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