masthead winters tale slider

Summer Shakespeare course at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

in Events by

UCC will offer students a chance to travel to Ashland to take part in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this upcoming summer term. The course, which can be taken as either ENG 105 (Intro to Drama) or ENG 201 (Shakespeare), will begin Aug. 31 and continue until Sept. 8. In that time span, students will get the opportunity to watch a total of five plays over a three day weekend.

Jillanne Michell, associate professor of English, is the instructor for the course. Michell has previously taught the course, using an extensive background in Shakespeare to teach students themes and messages, while taking students on a trip to watch live theatre.

“The experience of attending five plays together as a small cohort — the class is limited to 15 students- is wonderful fun, and we meet for a number of informal discussions at Lythia Park, which are always fun and enjoyable,” Michell said.

Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which commissioned the Tony winning play “All the Way” in 2012, is known nationwide for its quality and performances. Each season brings together professional actors and design teams that recreate Shakespearian classics, as well as demonstrate newer, more contemporary talents. The festival serves as the perfect classroom to teach students Shakespeare’s unique characters, stories and vernacular, even while rarely being set in Shakespeare’s time setting.

The plays themselves offer theatre goers the chance to experience professional plays close to home. “From the acting, to the music, to the costumes, to the sets, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is always amazing,” Michell said.

For this summer, the class will view four of Shakespeare’s more noteworthy plays and one contemporary entry. “Hamlet” follows a young prince out for revenge for his father who was slain by his brother in order to take the crown. “Richard II” is a historical retelling of the final years of King Richard the Second, the last king of his name before the Lancasters took control of England. “Twelfth Night,” a comedy, follows twins separated from each other by a shipwreck. “The Winter’s Tale” is a romance (or tragedy, depending on your interpretation) that tells the story of a Bohemian king named Polixenes who believes his wife is sleeping with a fellow king and friend. Finally, there is “Vietgone,” a contemporary tale set in the Vietnam War era which finds three Vietnamese caught in a country vastly different from their own: the United States.

Although the plays account for much of the excitement surrounding the class, Michell sees a deeper and more important meaning that requires study.

“Due to Shakespeare’s deep understanding of human behavior and his broad knowledge of history and literature, his work can give us insight into sociology, religion, philosophy, and the list goes on and on,” Michell said. Current issues of race, gender and sexual orientation are all observed in the plays and may form a deeper impact and breadth of empathy for those who see them played out in dramatic fashion.

The course will run at four credits. A course fee of $185 will be accessed to cover the expense of the five plays. Transportation and lodging must be provided by the student. The class will only meet three days before traveling to Ashland to watch the plays over three consecutive days.

Besides attending the plays and several group discussions, students will also be required to write a term paper covering the material studied and theatre itself. Students will have one month after the plays end to write the paper and will meet with Michell two weeks before the due date to conference over its progress.

“The seven-to-ten page paper . . . is typically excellent, due in large part to the profoundly intense and vivid experience of attending the high-caliber, professional productions of the plays,” Michell said.

UCC’s summer term registration begins May 23. The shortened class schedule makes the class ideal for students looking for credits to easily complete. This, coupled with the enjoyment of watching Shakespeare’s plays come to life, is what Michell believes makes the course worthwhile.

“The course offers students a true immersion experience in world-class live theatre, and the learning that results from this exposure is always extraordinarily powerful,” Michell said.

To contact Dr. Michell for more information on the class, you can email her at jillanne.michell@umpqua.edu or call her at

541-440-4646.

masthead winters tale slider
The Winter’s Tale is one of the plays that this class will be attending. It is directed by Desdemona Chiang.
Photo provided by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival