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AHS thespians to return to stage

Ashland High School's production of "Clue" has been selected to be highlighted as a mainstage performance at the 2021 Virtual International Thespian Festival. Stars of the show include, top to bottom, left to right: Alison Avery, Allie Poole, Evan Lucas, Evan Heintz, Secoya Joaquin, Jackson Shostrom and Brooklyn Williams.
Theater program to present first and last in-person production of play next week

It’ll be a month of firsts for Ashland High School theater, starting with a big one Monday and Tuesday. That’s when, at 7 p.m. each night at Mountain Avenue Theatre, Ashland will perform “Our Place,” the school’s first (and last) live, in-person play of the 2020-21 school year.

The 40-minute drama, written by Terry Gabbard and directed by Ashland High theater producer and teacher Betsy Bishop, will feature an ensemble cast of six students playing 14 roles. The play is broken up into five scenes, each telling a different story but in the same setting: a wooden dock that extends out onto a lake.

One of the cast members, senior Evan Heintz, will be making his final appearance on stage for Ashland High before graduating June 11. The actors don’t have to wear masks if they’re vaccinated, so on top of all the usual preparations, Bishop is scrambling to get vaccination cards before the show.

“It’s pretty exciting, and it’s only a 40-minute play but, gosh, we had to do a lot of work to just get that one little play,” Bishop said. “The theater kids are kind of special kids because they really enjoy performance. A lot of other kids are into sports and other things like that, but our kids love the opportunity to be on stage.”

Limited seating is available at Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave., and can be purchased at the door for a donation of $5 or more per seat.

Next week’s performance will precede another big event for the school’s theater program. Ashland High’s production of “CLUE, the Stay at Home Comedy,” was one of 13 productions selected to be highlighted as a mainstage performance during the 2021 Virtual International Thespian Festival, held June 22-25. The troupe scored as one of the top six performances overall and will be given a prime time slot at the prestigious event. The national honor, for which AHS will be profiled at the event, will be a first for a theater program that is perennially recognized as one of Oregon’s best.

“Wonderful,” Bishop said, “because I feel like we do work hard.”

The six cast members of “Our Place” are Heintz, Brooklyn Williams, Ben Kerr, Annie Siegel, Ava Tobar and Sophia Jones. All but Siegel will take on multiple roles, and Heintz, Williams and Kerr play three roles apiece.

Filling out the cast proved challenging because in formulating its return to in-person instruction, Ashland High administrators decided to offer six classes per quarter rather than the usual eight, a move that limited the number of electives students could afford to take.

A cast of 12 Ashland High students originally performed “CLUE” last November. Directed by Oregon Shakespeare Festival company member Jonathan Luke Stevens, the show was an elaborate Zoom production that pushed the limits of what a high school troupe could do with the online platform.

“It was really a success because we worked so hard on it,” Bishop said. “Maybe other schools did Zoom plays, but we used open broadcasting with it. Open broadcasting is a way to connect QLab, which does sound and music and all the cues. And the kids controlled all of their own tech, meaning they changed the virtual background. A lot of schools would just have everybody have the same background, but we … actually divided the photos up (for backgrounds). So it was very complicated.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.