There is a fairly new club at Southern Oregon University, and they’re here to stay. The Oracle Theatre Company is, simply put, a Theatre Club “… we seek to create an equitable and educational environment dedicated to serving the Oregon Center for the Arts students,” as stated in their mission statement, which you can find on their SOU Presences page and through their official Instagram account, @oracletheatre.
The Siskiyou was able to interview a few members of the club– George Butterick (He/Him), Sam Lucas (They/Them), Oscar Quezada (They/Them), Emma Richardson (She/They), Julia Gibbs (She/Her), Micah Kelson (He/Him), Mara Shene-Zsak(She/They), Samuel Hunker (He/They), and Connor Lomeli Anguiano (He/Him).
George Butterick described it as “It’s a community,” when we asked what is the members of the Oracle Theatre Company what they are and what they do.
“We’re trying to facilitate interactions between different majors. We’re looking for student writers, student directors, anything like that. We’re hoping to start pulling from different departments to see what we can all create together,” said Julia Gibbs, the Fundraising Coordinator for OTC.
Gibbs continued with, “I think there’s very specific types of productions that students are starting to look for and if we can provide an outlet for that in any way shape or form, that’s just helpful and keeps everyone motivated and wanting to be here.”
We asked if they were targeting just SOU students or the greater Ashland Community as a whole.
“I think early on, a lot of people coming to the shows are going to be students and people very close to the university, but we always love reaching out and getting more art into the community– whether or not that’s the other schools around us or the people that live in the city of Ashland,” said Samuel Hunker, the Secretary for OTC.
On January 13th, The Oracle Theatre Company kicked off their 24-Hour Play Festival, and on the 14th, it came to a close with a showcase of six plays– all written, directed, and performed by SOU students. With the 24-Hour Play Festival being The Oracle Theatre Company’s event, we opened up a discussion on the magic behind the event itself starting with How did it feel to set everything up?
Hunker started off with, “One of the things we were struggling with early on was funding. We were so unbelievably thankful to the Honors College for providing food to students, and also providing an area where we could work.”
The festival’s kick-off ceremony was held in the Suzanne Holmes building, as well as a place for the participants to write and rehearse their plays.
“Without the Honors College, this would be a lot tougher to put together,” Hunker added.
“Thanks to Julia for reaching out,” Butterick added.
“We also have the Theatre Office and faculty to thank for helping us with promotion, and thanks to Micah for sending out those department-wide emails and reaching out to OCA students, it helped get the word out quickly,” said Oscar Quezada, the Outreach Coordinator for OTC.
“It was also our first event, so part of it was daunting; there was a brief window where we had 7 applicants and I thought ‘Oh god nobody is gonna come!’ Thanks to the Theatre Office, the Honors College, and Micah, that turned around and built hope for us as a board,” said Emma Richardson, the Associate Artistic Director for OTC.
“We had around +90 members and around 30 participants, which was a very warm welcome for our first event,” Butterick commented.
What was everyone’s favorite part of the festival?
“As an actor, it was immaculate just walking through the theatre building and seeing all of these pieces slowly come together through the day,” said Hunker.
“It was just so rewarding as well, seeing the finished product, and so many people came; We had our cast members stand in the back of the theater instead of sitting, which sucks, but it was also great because we were like ‘Damn, so many people are coming to see this,’” said Sam Lucas, the Social Media Manager of OTC.
“Being in the lobby and the building all day, seeing everyone and their processes and genuinely how much every single person loved what they were doing and were so happy in whatever element– if they were writing, if they were directing, if they were acting– everyone was tuned in. It was really nice to see everyone bring these ideas to life,” said Mara Shene-Zsak, the Financial Coordinator for OTC.
“We had gone to get more chairs, after three times, and then ran out of chairs in the whole building,” said Butterick.
“When we all were in this room for tech, it was such a frantic process, but even in the middle of all that chaos, we all were working together to help this [the showcase] look finished, and that was beautiful,” said Richardson.
Micah Kelson, the Marketing Coordinator for OTC, was unable to attend due to their busy schedule, but stated, “The idea of everyone collaborating and creating something so quickly and so frantically really pulls us all together, and that’s what I love about Oracle Theatre, because we are making new works and letting students collaborate and work together on things that would never happen at this school.”
Kelson continued, “There are 80 actors in the theatre department who will probably never work on something in a year, so this is the perfect opportunity to present those works to them.”
Quezada offered, in reference to their rehearsal, “We all just collapsed just from laughter and exhaustion, and I was like ‘We just need to stop’ so we all just collectively laid on the floor for like five minutes laughing and like catching our breath, and then we had to go into runs,” finishing with this, “It was such a collective moment and so human.”
“It was very exciting; being out there at the table and letting people in, I would see a lot of the audience coming in to support their peers. It was very fun, promising, and exciting,” said Connor Lomeli Anguiano, the Front of House Manager for The Oracle Theatre Company.
What are your plans for The Oracle Theatre? Do you plan on branching out beyond SOU?
“I started this company because I thought it would be a nice opportunity for students to see what life might be like outside of school, where you have to create your own opportunities and your own shows– to give writers and directors more opportunities to work in a professional environment,” commented Butterick.
“I think there’s something about being a fellow student and to be surrounded by people of the same experience, who want you to do well… you truly know there’s no judgment in being wrong. You’re getting a space to then take and present it [your art] to the scarier people, like adults. Sure, we have faculty, but it’s important for students to know we have each other’s back,” said Quezada.
“Sometimes they [faculty] just don’t have time. These are people with busy lives and jobs. We have students that can give so much experience to the younger students involved, and we can see that with the Actor’s Club. We want to work with them to get new students in, so we can branch off as early as possible to make their art as free as possible,” said Hunker.
“Oracle Theatre, Actor’s Club, and Dance Club are the safest place to start. You come into a school like this and you’re like ‘Oh, well the juniors and seniors are better than me, I can’t go to them.’ If you can come in here and feel safe to try– to work on new things and ideas– that’s all that we care about,” said Nelson.
“There’s a level of comfort with doing work made by your peers for your peers. There’s topics you’re more comfortable with talking about or being able to perform. Having people within your own age and similar background can help,” said Lucas.
“It’s not about this company, it’s not about having to succeed, it’s about getting art out there and having people experience it,” said Hunker.
“This space can get weird– put your creative vomit on stage, that’s what we’re here for– get weird in space,” said Richardson.
“We are simply the mops for the students,” said Quezada.
“We’ll channel your vomit,” said Richardson.
This is only the beginning for The Oracle Theatre Company, with more events planned for this Winter term and beyond. To any and all artists, seek out creative clubs – these communities will welcome students with a reaching hand, they just have to take it. As well, if students find themselves wandering the halls of the SU, keep an eye out for The Oracle – for the future they seek lies within them.