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Celebrating theater at Ashland High School

Two veteran directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Kirk Boyd and Pat Patton, will be in town for a public party from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27, at Ashland High School's Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland. Boyd and Patton paved the way for 15 years of AHS-OSF partnership and influenced its beginning. Boyd directed the first partnership play, "A Company of Wayward Saints" at AHS in 1993.

Patton rallied for the theater students in the midst of AHS budget cuts.

Matthew Smith, AHS thespian in 1993, made the initial connection with Boyd at OSF and the partnership was forged.

Since then, Joan Langley, OSF education director, and all the OSF artistic directors from Henry Woronicz and Libby Appel to Bill Rauch have supported this on-site partnership at the high school.

This year the high school's drama students restaged "A Company of Wayward Saints" in the Mountain Avenue Theatre.

The AHS Mountain Avenue Theatre also is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The facility has grown from a 170-seat black box in 1997 to a 415-seat fully equipped, professional-quality theater. Russ Otte, retired AHS choir director, also will be present. His tireless support for a larger performance space and his years working on AHS musicals made a difference.

At 6 p.m. in the Rose Studio, AHS theater department will hold a dinner prepared by Tabu Restaurant to honor its directors and mentors. Tickets are $10 and an RSVP is advised.

A presentation will follow in the theater at 7:30 p.m. Directors and mentors who have worked with AHS theater students over the last 15 years will be noted. Several performances and a slide show of the past 43 shows are slated. Admission is free and all are invited.

Both Ashland High School and Southern Oregon University have benefited from their proximity to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directors and actors from the festival have participated actively in the drama programs at the high school and the university.

Betsy Bishop, theatre teacher at AHS said in a press release, "We are blessed. The halo effect of OSF artists working with our students in the technically advanced 'new' Mountain Avenue Theatre allowed our student talent and imagination to soar. We've been able to think big."

Bishop says more than 50 theater alumni plan to attend. "It will be fun night remembering the laughter, the tears and the exhilaration of high school theatre."

Ten-dollar dinner reservations may be e-mailed to either Lezlie Cross at lezliec@osfashland.org or Megan Flannery at thespi12@aol.com.

Call 482-8771.

Ashland High School's 2008 production of 'A Company of Wayward Strangers' was performed in the Mountain Avenue Theatre. - Photo by Jenny Graham