Mrs. Coughlin’s Ashland Trip May Be Cancelled Next Year

Nick Fischer, Opinion Editor

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There is a possibility of cancellation for next year’s Ashland, Oregon Trip that offers Woodside High School students a chance to watch renditions of Shakespearian classics.

The Ashland, Oregon Trip is, for the most part, an annual event organized by portions of the Woodside High School AS English department. The trip is offered to Woodside students ranging from 9th grade to 12th grade. It can be an amazing bonding and learning experience for students as well as students. However the journey itself is outshined by the destination: the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The festival, since 1935, harbors eleven plays either Shakespearian or, beginning in 1960, non-Shakespearean plays on three stages from mid-February to early November. By the end of its last season in 2016, the festival has played all of Shakespeare’s plays 108 times.

Woodside is able to offer a trip to this festival starting about 30 years ago when Mrs. Keller, a  liaison between Optimists International and Woodside’s Octagon Club, organized the trip along with another teacher, Mrs. Sidley.

“About 30 years ago, Mrs. Keller and her husband started taking Advanced Standing English students to Ashland for Oregon Shakespeare Festival performances and activities,” Mrs. Coughlin, a friend of Mrs. Keller and an employee of Woodside High School, explained.

Mrs. Coughlin, a Freshmen AS English I teacher, first became acquainted with the Ashland Trip in its early stages.

“I attended once in those early days as a new teacher maybe 27 years ago.  The trip had a couple of other leaders on and off through the years, not being offered every year,” Mrs. Coughlin said.

Eventually Mrs. Coughlin became more involved and began leading the trip to Ashland along with a few other teachers.

“When I started teaching AS English I about nine years ago, I started leading the trips myself with Ms. Sidley and now Mr. Dolan,” Mrs. Coughlin said.

The students that choose to attend the trip are leave at the end of a week and are gone for about 3-4 days but return at the end of the weekend with time to start the next school week fresh.

“We drive up to Ashland, Oregon during the school day on Thursday and return Sunday afternoon,” Mrs. Coughlin stated.

Once at the festival, the students enjoy various aspects of their environment ranging from the plays themselves to each other.

“Students attend three to four plays, theater workshops, a backstage tour, and discussions with acting company members,” Mrs. Coughlin elaborated. “We also try to build community in our own group with walks together, icebreakers, and a group reflection at the end of the trip,” Mrs. Coughlin added.

The trip has many highlights that offer opportunities in learning, bonding, and just plain fun. Yet ultimately the plays themselves habitually seem to captivate the audience.

“The plays are always the highlights, of course, but students also enjoy the acting workshops at Southern Oregon University, including topics such as stage combat, stage make-up [sic], Elizabethan dance, and costuming” Mrs. Coughlin elaborated.  

The students also experience a new environment different from the community and microcosm of the Bay Area.

“Students also enjoy the beautiful small-town feeling of Ashland, the gorgeous walks in Lithia Park, and the shops,” Mrs. Coughlin said.

Nevertheless, like all good things in life, there are downsides and challenges–particularly the expenses and time-budgeting.

“The trip is expensive–about $525 for everything but lunches and dinners, but we work to provide funding so that all students who are interested in attending are able to go.  Mrs. Burbank has been very generous in allocating funding from the WHS Foundation for us to defray costs for students, and other people have donated as well,” Mrs. Coughlin explained.

Another complication to the Ashland Trip are, ironically, the students.

“Some misbehavior of trip participants ended the opportunity for many years.”

This combined with other factors can easily lead to a canceled trip… but what are the other complications exactly?

“The pre-trip planning takes tremendous time and energy, and, for those of us involved in the planning, we typically fall behind in our other responsibilities, both professional and personal.  I don’t think the students realize the huge effort required of the teachers who chaperone, including the great sense of responsibility all of us feel during the trip for the students’ safety first and enjoyment second,” Mrs. Coughlin explained.

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Mrs. Coughlin’s Ashland Trip May Be Cancelled Next Year