The Shakespeare-style Elizabethan Theatre in Ashland, Oregon.

Students, teachers prepare for annual Ashland trip

Since 1977 juniors and seniors have gone to the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon. And this year marks the trip’s 41st year; students will leave on Oct. 2.

Former English teacher Patricia Fels has been in charge of planning and coordinating the trip since its beginning; however, her retirement last year left the position open.

Now biology teacher Kellie Whited has stepped into Fels’s shoes, taking on the task of heading this year’s adventure.

This will be Whited’s seventh year chaperoning the trip, although her new position adds a layer of tasks which she has not had to deal with in the past.

“We needed someone to take over,” Whited said.

“Traditionally, it is the head of the English department, but since (English teacher Jason) Hinojosa is relatively new to the school, I volunteered to be in charge.

“(Fels) has been teaching me the ropes for the last year or so.”

However, Whited said that because she is not an English teacher, she has been working with Hinojosa on many of the planning aspects.

“We started planning right after last year’s trip,” Whited said.

“We had to pick plays and order tickets by December.”

Along with the plays, Whited said that booking the hotel and scheduling rafting dates both had to be done about a year in advance.

“Ashland is very popular, so with a group our size, we have to make sure that we have secured all of our facilities ahead of time,” Whited said.

Further requirements in the preparation process included asking students to pick plays they want to attend, putting together room assignments and making sure the busses arrive on time, Whited said.

As for the plays themselves, Whited said that her goal was to give the students a variety of options.

“Some students love Shakespeare and want to see nothing but it the whole time,” Whited said.

“Others would prefer to see as little Shakespeare as possible, so we also try to offer some plays in each of the theaters so that students have an opportunity to get the whole Ashland experience.”

In addition, Whited said that each year the teachers pick a particular Shakespearean play that will be required for the juniors and seniors to see in Ashland.

Sometimes, each class has a different required play, but this year both grades will be seeing Shakespeare’s “Othello.”

Along with “Othello,” this year’s selections include “Snow in Midsummer,” “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” “Oklahoma,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Henry V,” “The Way The Mountain Moved” and “The Book of Will.”

Whited said that English teacher Jane Bauman, the school’s “resident Ashland expert,” has seen many of the plays, and although she was not involved in choosing them, Whited said she has given advice on plots and relating themes of the plays.

Along with watching plays, students have the option of going on a rafting trip in the Klamath River or attending a workshop led by an actor of one of the plays.

Whited said that this year they requested a workshop related to “Othello” because everyone will be seeing it. However, as of Oct. 1, Whited said she does not know for certain if “Othello” will be the workshop play or not until she arrives in Ashland.

As for the chaperones of this year’s trip, Whited said that there are a few changes besides the absence of Fels.

Along with Hinojosa and Whited, French teacher Richard Day, art teacher Andy Cunningham, history teacher Sue Nellis and Latin teacher Jane Batarseh are also attending.

Whited said that Nellis and Batarseh chaperoned the Ashland trip for many years before both switching to the 10th grade trip to Greenhorn Ranch in Quincy, Calif. Batarseh switched back to the Ashland trip last year; Nellis  requested to chaperone the Ashland trip one final time since she is retiring at the end of the year.

Head of high school Brooke Wells is attending the 10th grade trip in Nellis’s place, although he usually goes to Ashland.

Cunningham will be attending the Ashland trip for his first time this year.

Whited said that she needed another chaperone to go on the rafting trip with her and Hinojosa, which is why Cunningham is chaperoning.

Nellis, who has attended the Ashland trip over 12 times, said that her switch to the 10th grade trip was a nice change of pace – but not because the trip to Ashland gets boring.

“Each year offers a new variety of interesting plays,” Nellis said.

She said that this year, she is most excited to see “Oklahoma” because “it’s a quintessential American play but has a nice twist, which will be interesting to see,” Nellis said. (The American classic’s twist will see two homosexual and interracial couples in the starlight.)

Along with the plays, Nellis said that she plans to spend a lot of her time in Ashland doing Christmas shopping, as Oregon doesn’t have sales tax, and she will have more free time on the trip than she does in Sacramento.

Students also enjoy more than just the pre-planned activities on the Ashland trip.

Senior Grace Naify said that, along with the “beyond amazing” plays, she likes the amount of freedom and free time that the Ashland trip includes.

Senior Luca Procida agreed.

“What I liked most about last year’s trip was getting to explore Ashland,” Procida said.

“There are a lot of really cool shops and restaurants, as well as the park.

“(My advice to) this year’s juniors is to get their bearings on the town and really take some time to explore it. It’s a unique place, and there are tons of places and things to stumble upon.”

Both Naify and Procida added that the plays are also a highlight of the trip.

“I am always excited to see the play that we studied in class,” Naify said.

“So (this year) I’m looking forward to seeing ‘Othello’ (and) ‘Henry V’ because I’m a huge fan of actor Daniel Jose Molina (who is in it).”

Naify added that the acting workshop, which she went to last year and is attending again this year, is really interesting because of the opportunity to work with some of the actors.

Procida said that one of his favorite parts about the plays is that the acting, stage design and sound design are all “very well done.”

—By Anna Frankel

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