In order to use the remaining budget, our team took a field trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR.
On August 22, we brought 14 participants ranging from home school to public school, pre-teen to adult to a full day of performance. We rode a school bus, which many of the participants had never done, and arrived to Ashland in time for an Indian Food lunch, people watching, theater games, and the matinee Sweat. Sweat, is a working class story about small town Pennsylvania factory workers who were locked out in the years leading up to the 2008 financial collapse. Many of our participants drew lines between our community and the one portrayed on stage. Though it was a very traditionally staged drama, many of our younger audiences named it as their favorite show.
After the first show, we had discussion over pizza and ice cream and made our way to the Green Show. A hammer dulcimer musician played using loop recording technology so that it sounded like many musicians at once.
Finally, we made our way to the outdoor Elizabethan theater to watch a Head Over Heels, a modern musical using songs of the Go-Gos and the story of Arcadia-a pastoral romance about the quest of a new meaning of love. Bright, extravagant costuming, winks and nods to the audience, and about every theatrical device you could think of were crammed into this show. This was a favorite for many as well.
The following week we brought 16, some of the same and some new, participants back to Ashland. After pizza and ice cream we once again found our way to the Green Show. This time we watched a modern dance duo using wheelchairs and arm crutches with a mission to expand dance to those with disabilities and without.
We arrived at our third and final show, The Happiest Song Plays Last, a drama set to Puerto Rican music on a very abstract set. An Iraqi war vet finds himself playing the lead role in a film about the war. PTSD and ghosts follow him. His cousin back in Philly must decide if she can continue to fight for what is right even if that means always caring for others rather than herself. The post show discussion on the ride back home was so rich and engaging. The students are beginning to find ways of critiquing performance while respecting other students opinions.
This trip was also an insight about young audiences in the theater. As we were waiting for the show to start, I posed the question, “how can professional theaters get younger audiences to come?” Meaningful discussion ensued and many ideas about programming and content as well as free food came up. During intermission, an audience member approached Gina and scolded her for bringing young children to the theater. Worried that our youngest (10 years old who came with his father) would not understand or that some of the content was not appropriate. I wish she could have heard how clearly the child articulated his point of view about what he saw and how engaged he was in retelling parts of the story. It is our belief that children belong in the theater from a very early age so that it becomes a part of their culture.
Included is a note from Gina below. Thanks again for this opportunity. I feel renewed and inspired to teach.
I am grateful for OSF’s ” no carry over” policy. Because year 1 brought many logistical challenges, we missed enough proposed programming to have some remaining funds. We took 2 field trips to Oregon Shakespeare Festival with these funds. I can honestly say, I consider this a luxury and wouldn’t have included it in the program. I also forget how little theatre our students have been exposed to, as my experience has been so different. I didn’t realize what a dramatic influence seeing professional theatre would have for our program.
Our students loved these trips. All of their hands shot up when I asked if they felt more inspired for the work at hand in the coming year. Their ability to reflect on what they saw and engage in intelligent discussion was wonderful. I feel this will benefit our program immensely and have a lasting effect, so much so, we may try and adjust our budget to include such a trip next Summer.
Again, OCF’s willingness to be flexible and learn from this grant process has served our community beautifully. On behalf of all, we thank you.