The cast and crew of last year’s spring musical attended the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, and all expectations of the trip were met and exceeded. As members of the American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF), the troupe was on a “working trip,” doing four performances in the beautiful Church Hill Theatre, and attending four performances by other high school participants. They also had one half-hour slot allotted to them on the Royal Mile, the main street of Edinburgh, to sell their show to the public, which they did in high spirits despite pouring rain. Director Laura Lang-Ree brought water bottles, in a bright yellow, to advertise the show, which the cast freely handed out to passersby during the first week. It was always a fun surprise to spot a “Urinetown” water bottle in the hand, basket or backpack of a tourist!
The high schools performing at the Fringe are advertised and billed exactly the same as all other professional and amateur groups, so schools hope to attract theatergoers, and not just other high school students. Thus it was especially gratifying that “Urinetown” had an audience of almost 150 for the first performance. In all, they had among the highest attendance of the high schools, performing for 430 people. “The Conservatory’s recognition by AHSTF was incredibly valuable to our program, ranking us among the best and brightest of high school musical theater,” said Lang-Ree. “Being able to take our students on a trip like this, one that demanded the best of them as performers, ‘sales-people’ and ambassadors of Harker was just magic.”
AHSTF sponsored a ceilidh (a traditional Scottish dance) for the students, where dancers in traditional attire demonstrated various dances and then pulled in the students and adults to give it a try. The students also attended the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual celebration of the military history of the United Kingdom, and were taken on a day-long coach ride through the Trossachs (“Little Highlands”) to Stirling Castle.
When not rehearsing or performing “Urinetown,” the 31 Harker students were busy gaining valuable theater experience by attending as many professional shows as possible. They saw actor Alan Cumming in a very modern “The Bacchae,” two comedians summarizing the first six Harry Potter books in an hour, Cambridge University’s “Sweeney Todd” in the tiniest of venues, a hip hop version of “Into the Woods,” two tappers dancing to two classical guitars, and much, much more. Of course, some shopping was done, despite the prohibitive exchange rate, and much hot chocolate was drunk at the cafe; “Chocolate Soup,” a student (and chaperone) favorite.
Harker’s Conservatory attended the Fringe after being nominated by American Musical Theatre of San Jose and undergoing an intensive application process. Thirty-eight of the approximately 300 schools that applied were invited to attend the Fringe this year.
“I am so grateful to the administration and the Conservatory families for their constant support. I hope to be able to take another lucky cast to the Fringe sometime in the future!” added Lang-Ree.
The blog from the trip can be found at: http://urinetownfringe.blogspot.com/