Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors bring Shakespeare to SCHS


Sophia Kennedy

Students engage in skill-building activities.

SCHS English and theater classes had the opportunity to see a short play titled “The Seven Ages” last Monday and Tuesday. The 45-minute show was performed by professional actors Elizabeth Reese and Armando McClain from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a repertory theater based in Ashland, Oregon. As part of the theater’s School Visit Program, which covers over 45 schools across the Pacific Northwest, Reese and McClain brought Shakespeare to life for SCHS students through a play and a two-hour workshop.

“The Seven Ages” is based on a speech from the play “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare. Using only two chairs and two swords, the actors expanded on Shakespeare’s seven ages of man through seven short skits: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon and old age.

McClain has been an actor with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for five years, and this is his second year on a school tour team. He said he enjoys hearing students’ insights about Shakespeare and getting them excited about theater, which has played an important role in his own life.

“Theater kind of saved my life in high school,” McClain said. “It gave me a purpose, something to do. Anyway, I can give that back.”

Though Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” was published in the 17th century, “The Seven Ages” was anything but old-fashioned. Reese and McClain incorporated jokes, language and dance moves that appealed to the young audience. Senior Devin Wong, a theater student, admired the talent that the actors brought to the relatively simple play.

“It was very good,” Wong said. “It was an excellent display of minimalism and the work that can be done with simple acting and physicality to inspire emotion.”

Aside from the performance offered to all English classes, Reese and McClain led a workshop for Theatre 2 and Theatre Productions classes. The students participated in a variety of Shakespeare-related activities to improve their acting. They studied different literary devices used in Shakespeare’s works and learned how to use body movement to add emphasis to speech. They even went as far as exploring different ways to sit in a chair.

Theater teacher Angelo Reyes said that through the workshop, he hoped his theater students gained an appreciation for Shakespeare, despite the fact that the drama classes do not work with Shakespeare’s plays often.

“They shouldn’t be afraid of the language,” Reyes said. “It can still be fun.”

Sophomore Zoe Tong said that though some of the activities were silly, she enjoyed the workshop and would like to participate in it again.

“I learned how saying different words with different emphasis or with different emotions can make the meaning sound completely different,” Tong said.

McClain said that Shakespeare “belongs to everybody,” and he encourages students to have fun while learning about acting.

“I just hope more programs like this are supported by school districts and patrons and teachers,” McClain said. “I feel like students sometimes just need this, a break from the regular stuff to do something different.”