DALLAS -- "O! she doth teaches the torches to burn bright."
Loosely translated, that's Shakespeare for "She's hot," and it's found in "Romeo and Juliet" during the scene when Romeo first spots Juliet at a party he crashed in pursuit of another girl, Rosaline.
As anyone who has made it past ninth-grade English class knows, Romeo promptly forgets his original reason for going to the party, destined to spend the rest of his life devoted to Juliet.
Two Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) actors, David Thompson and Christopher Michael Rivera, broke down the first scene between the star-crossed lovers for a class of Dallas High School advanced theater students during a workshop focused on Shakespeare's use of language Wednesday, Feb. 23.
The visiting actors from the Ashland festival troupe hosted a series of workshops and live performances each school day last week as part of a three-year agreement between DHS and OSF's School Visit Partnership Program.
The partnership has OSF actors working with teachers to introduce students to live theater and help them navigate language in Shakespeare's plays. A pair of actors will return for an extended period during each of the next two years.
Jeff Baer, a DHS English teacher, said OSF actors have visited the school in the past, but only for one-day events. He contacted the festival about establishing the longer-term partnership. During the week, the actors presented workshops dealing with language and themes in Shakespeare's works, as well as condensed 40-minute performances of "Julius Caesar."
"They are looking for ways to make Shakespeare more relevant," Baer said.
Thompson and Rivera explained some of the common tripping points with Shakespeare, including iambic pentameter and syntax -- or the order of words in a sentence -- which in places is reversed from modern English, such as "Tempt not a desperate man."
The workshops led students through playful language exercises, including translating modern phrases in "Shakespeare speak" and making up their own words -- much like Shakespeare did in many of his works.
Thompson encouraged students to be as creative as possible.
"We want you to think of this as a playground and you are 6," he said.
Rivera, who is in his third year of the school tours, said he volunteered for the outreach program because he wants to encourage teens to explore Shakespeare.
"Shakespeare's telling a story that we all know, but ... It's hard to find someone who writes it better," Rivera said. "That's why we still (perform) it."