Photo Credit: TYLER FRANCKE | WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Joe Wegner, center, leads a group of Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy students through a recitation of an excerpt of 'Hamlet' during last week's visit to Woodburn by him and his fellow OSF actor Laura Montes“I’m going to make a bold statement right now,” Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Joe Wegner told a group of Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy students sitting in a circle on the stage of the Woodburn High School auditorium Friday. “If Shakespeare were still alive and writing today, he would be a rapper. He wrote in iambic pentameter, which means he wrote with a beat.”

Wegner and fellow OSF actor Laura Montes appeared at WACA and the Academy of International Studies last week to perform excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays (and other classical and contemporary literature) and lead students through a series of interactive workshops that explored such topics as the great playwright’s methods and the reasons behind his continued pre-eminence in the literary world.

One of the goals of the program and its workshops is to show how Shakespeare’s work can be related to teenagers’ everyday lives.

“I love it when students who had always thought of Shakespeare as incomprehensible and archaic have the realization that it can actually be clear, engaging and remarkably relevant to their lives,” said Montes, a teaching artist with OSF who is in her third year touring with the program.

Montes holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio University’s Professional Actor Training Program, while Wegner has a bachelor’s in fine arts from Southern Oregon University.

The event was part of OSF’s School Visit Program, which continues through December and includes stops at schools throughout Oregon, Washington, California and Kansas.

According to a press release, the program was created by OSF founder Angus Bowmer in 1971 as a way to reach a wider audience, and through it, the festival has engaged over 2 million students in more than 7,000 schools in the past 43 years.

In addition, 12 schools from Oregon are part of the School Visit Partnership Program, which provides teachers with professional development and classroom lessons. Actors are also in residence at partnership schools for two to five days, depending on the size of the school.

“Behind the School Visit Program lies the belief that actors, great literature and the imagination of the audience are all the ingredients needed to make captivating theater,” said Joan Langley, OSF director of education. “An essential goal of the program is to provide active and personal involvement in great literature that will excite, inspire and even change the lives of students.”

In addition to performing Shakespeare, the team also offers a literature program. Montes and Wegner are one of three OSF teams performing “American Night High: The Ballad of an Immigrant Student Dreaming in the USA” by Richard Montoya, originally commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as their literature offering.

This 35-minute play for student audiences is inspired by Montoya’s “American Night: The Ballad of Juan José” and “Culture Clash.” The play premiered at OSF in 2010 and was commissioned as part of a 10-year program tasked with commissioning new plays sprung from moments of change in U.S. history.

According to the release, the 2014 School Visit Program and School Visit Partnership Program are funded by grants from The Bowmer Society, the Joseph R. Parker Foundation, Starseed Foundation, The Lamb-Baldwin Foundation, the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission and also the Sharkey Family Charitable Foundation.

For information about the program, visit

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.

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