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Annette Lewis: Retired is not the right word

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Annette Lewis portrays Ashland founder Abel Helman's granddaughter in Tombstone Tales during a living history tour at Ashland Cemetery. With her is Noah Werthaiser. Photo by Alice Mallory
 Posted: 2:00 AM September 15, 2012

Annette Lewis has taught theater and directed high school plays in three different states, including Arizona, before retiring to Ashland 10 years ago.

Retiring is not really the right word. Since she has been here, she has written and acted with Tombstone Tales, the summer living history tours presented by the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum that start at the Ashland Cemetery on East Main Street.

She also teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Ashland. Over the years, she has offered her students insights into various plays from the current Oregon Shakespeare Festival season. Her classes are in such demand that they were moved from the OLLI Campus at 655 Frances Lane into larger venues at Southern Oregon University.

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On the Podium is a series spotlighting Ashland teachers. Send profile ideas to jeastman@dailytidings.com

As a teacher, she sees her success measured in two ways: "Every play I directed for 20 years and every successful student who is a happy, contributing adult."

What's your favorite aspect about Ashland: Culture, climate, community. The order is interchangeable. I searched the world for the best place to live and correctly chose Ashland.

Anything else you like to do?: Everything from kayaking to singing in choirs. This past year I was in four choirs, including Siskiyou Singers and More Fools Than Wise madrigal group.

Is there something else you're not telling us?: Bicycling is also high on my list. My husband and I bicycled around the world in 1994-95 and in 1999-2000 we cycled in 15 additional countries over a year and a half, just the two of us on fully loaded touring bikes.

Give us a few career highlights: One former student just won an Emmy, but that's only one small example. I was recruited to teach in colleges and prestigious high schools, including eight summers teaching theater and directing at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Mich.

How do you make an old play come alive for your students?: I choose plays from the OSF season that are less known and I try to give background that will enhance their theater experience. I have a guest speaker from OSF affiliated with that production in the class to answer questions. OSF actors are very generous and kind as well as immensely talented.

How do you introduce yourself to your students?: I tell my class that you don't choose your passion, your passion chooses you, and that I have been involved in theater since I was five when I was chosen to play Gretel in a kindergarten production of "Hansel and Gretel." Over six decades later, I'm still involved in theater in many different ways.

What's still on your to-do list?: More travel: Canada, India. I'm working on a play for OSF's American Revolutions, the United States History Cycle. I also want to paint a mural.

How can we learn more about you?: I'm too busy with OLLI, American Association of University Women (AAUW), Tudor Guild, Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Kaykalots and four choirs to have a website or write a book. But you can watch the DVD of this year's Tombstone Tales at the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum (258 A Street, Suite 7).


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