Turlock High School students probably never envisioned Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and William Shakespeare together — that is, until Christiana Clark and Jeremy Gallardo from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s School Visit Program performed at their campus this week.
In a “Shakespairing” that explored the relevancy of George Lucas’ "Star Wars" and Shakespeare’s “King Henry IV,” Clark and Gallardo brought out lightsabers to reenact the unforgettable battle between Skywalker and Kenobi before arming themselves with swords to play out the clash between young Harry Percy, nicknamed Hotspur, and Prince Henry.
“Shakespeare can be relevant today, whether it’s about love, immigration, racial intolerance or war,” Gallardo told students Thursday.
Gallardo and Clark also performed “Shakespairing” acts that showcased the similarities between Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and The Q Brothers’ “Q Gents” by portraying the relationship between the former’s Valentine and Silvia and then latter’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s characters as a high school football star and cheerleader. The two actors also addressed the topic of war by “Shakespairing” Shakespeare’s "Henry V" and Quiara Alegria Hudes’ “Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue,” as well as the topic of immigration by intertwining a modern portrayal of migrant workers in Orange County with Shakespeare’s writings about “strangers” in “Sir Thomas More.”
“That was from 400 years ago,” Gallardo told students. “This is something that we still are trying to figure out as a nation today.”
Clark and Gallardo’s three-day visit to Turlock High School this week was part of the 45th annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s School Visit Program, which sends OSF actors to over 100 schools throughout the Western United States between October and December. Teams of actors like Clark and Gallardo tour schools to engage students in live performances and active workshops.
The School Visit Program was created in 1971 by OSF founder Angus Brown as a way to reach a wider audience — a goal that most can say has been achieved as OSF has reached over 2 million students in over 7,000 schools in 12 states since its inception.
“As we celebrate the 45th anniversary season of the School Visit Program, the world is also marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death,” said Joan Langley, OSF Director of Education. “I can’t think of a better way to honor the legacy of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s namesake playwright than to continue inspiring the next generation of theatre audiences and artists by bringing dynamic, participatory art directly into schools.”