AHS actors excel at regional competition

An Ashland High School Theatre production has been selected as one of three plays to be performed at the 2010 State Thespian Conference in Eugene in April. That's great news to those involved, but also a big challenge.

"We are so excited," theater teacher Betsy Bishop said. "It's going to be a major ordeal. The killer for us is we're putting on 'Grease' in three weeks."

Bishop got word of the honor following last weekend's Regional Acting Competition at Thurston High School in Springfield. At that event, nine Ashland students placed in the top three in their categories.

Three of those students, Emma Harding, Rosie Alspach and Kyle Barnes, took top honors in their categories, qualifying to compete at the state conference. Twenty-four students from Ashland participated in the regional competition, which included 480 theater students from across the state.

The Ashland play chosen for the state conference is Jim Leonard's "Anatomy of Gray," which showed in May 2009 at Ashland High School. The play is a comedy/drama set in 1880s Indiana that examines faith and illness, among other themes.

The AHS Theatre has "Grease" set to run Feb. 16 through March 13, with many of the same actors from "Anatomy of Gray" preparing simultaneously for both productions.

"They've already done 'Gray,' so they know the characters," Bishop said. "After 'Grease' has opened we can hit this harder."

"Anatomy of Gray" will show again in Ashland on March 31 and April 1-3, prior to the state conference, then it will be the opening showcase production at the State Thespian Conference on April 8. The play will be seen in the Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center in Eugene, which holds 2,500 people.

Bishop said one of the largest challenges will be pulling together the sets, costumes and other equipment needed for a play that play closed nine months ago.

The AHS drama director and producer said she's pleased by the double success produced at the weekend's competition, but not overly surprised.

"We have the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and our kids are really artsy-craftsy," Bishop said. "We have that kind of community here. Kids have a little more in that way than a lot of other schools."

Portland schools are also very strong in theater, Bishop said, additionally pointing out South Eugene High School as a drama power to be reckoned with.

"South Eugene is a lot like Ashland with the university there," she said. "But every school has a bevy of good students. Ambition is something you can't buy; kids who prepare the most usually do the best."

Ashland is assisted by members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, who help out in all aspects of school drama. Very active parent volunteers are also a big part of the success, Bishop said.

For more information about either "Grease" or "Anatomy of Gray" e-mail Bishop at Betsy.Bishop@ashland.k12.or.us or call 541-482-8771.

Tickets for Grease are available online at SHOWTIX4U.com. Non-reserved student/senior and general tickets are also available at Paddington Station, Tree House Books and Music Coop.

More information is also available at www.ahstheatre.net.

Myles Murphy is an editor and reporter for the Tidings. Contact him at mmurphy@dailytidings.com.

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