Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors graduated from SOU

Four SOU actors take the stage at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

(Ashland, Ore.) — If you’ve seen a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival over the past 10 years, chances are you’ve seen Southern Oregon University students on stage.

Professor Jackie Apodaca saw opportunity when she first arrived at SOU in 2011. With a world-class Shakespeare festival just down the street, and a budding performance bachelor of fine arts program, she set to work building the SOU/OSF Acting Trainee Program. Along with Scott Kaiser, OSF’s former director of company development, Apodaca turned what was once a rare opportunity – open to one or two SOU student actors every once in a while – into a unique and robust annual partnership.

The SOU/OSF Acting Trainee Program has been operating for over a decade, channeling actors directly from SOU classrooms to professional stages for life- and career-changing experiences. The opportunities provided to these young artists rival, and often exceed, internship opportunities offered through graduate programs across the country.

“Before the pandemic, we regularly had eight to 15 actors on stage at OSF every single year,” Apodaca said. “The numbers, of course, dropped during 2020, but we are quickly building back the pathway. Not only do we have four recent graduates in the OSF 2024 acting company through the Acting Trainee program, we have recently developed internships with OSF’s education department.

“And of course, we’re eager for OSF’s FAIR program to be rebuilt, which will catalyze even more opportunities for our design, technology and management students. OSF’s new leadership has been incredibly welcoming and responsive, and I am really excited for what’s to come. The OSF/SOU theatre partnership is stronger than ever.”

Here’s more about the recent SOU graduates taking center stage at OSF in 2024:

Aleeyah Enriquez from Hood River graduated from SOU in the spring of 2023. Aleeyah will be playing a watchman in “Much Ado About Nothing” and understudying this year at OSF.

“I’m so grateful to have done my BFA at SOU because not only did I have access to the amazing performance faculty for my voice, movement and acting classes, but I also had the opportunity to work with guest artists/educators directly from the festival,” Aleeyah said. “SOU is well-equipped with incredible professors and the amount of knowledge I’ve obtained has prepared me for these next steps into my career.”

Jennie Babisch from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduated in spring of 2023. She will understudy several roles in this year’s OSF production of “Macbeth.”

“My favorite thing about SOU was the diversity of training I received,” Jennie said. “I studied commedia del’arte, viewpoints, masks, Meisner, Greek, Shakespeare and clowning, and so much more from so many incredible teachers at SOU – several of whom were also working actors at OSF!”

Nicole Villavicencio Gonzalez from Reno, Nevada, graduated SOU in the spring of 2023. She will be playing Fleance and other ensemble roles in this year’s production of “Macbeth.”

“Some of my favorite things about SOU theatre are its connection to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the opportunity to take workshops and classes from OSF actors,” Nicole said. “I also appreciated experiencing the amount of student collaboration it takes to put on shows at SOU. It’s a good reminder that you are a small part in comparison to the larger collaborative production.”

Thilini (Lini) Dissanayake from Eugene graduated SOU in the summer of 2023. Lini will be playing Young Jane and Adele in “Jane Eyre,” and understudying roles in “Much Ado About Nothing” at OSF this year.

“The potential to work at OSF was one of the primary reasons I came to SOU, and I am so grateful for my time here,” Lini said. “I felt so challenged, supported, and uplifted by my classmates and my professors in the BFA Performance program. Being a part of the OSF Repertory is a dream come true, and it came to fruition through my training and industry connections at this school. See y’all at the Elizabethan (Theatre) this summer!”