Thursday, December 5, 2002

Doing what it takes to get to Scotland

Published in the Current

Theater students at Cape Elizabeth High School have a pair of huge challenges ahead: Not only do they have to raise $100,000 to fly 27 of them and five chaperones to Edinburgh for the August 2003 Fringe Festival, but they have to develop and rehearse a performance to put on while there.

The first challenge, getting the money together to arrive in Edinburgh, has been underway for several months. It started near the end of the last school year, after the school had found out it had been selected to participate in the American High School Theatre Festival, which is part of the Fringe Festival.

Money raised from last year’s production of “The King and I” was added to the fledgling “Fringe Fund,” which has been growing steadily since.

Parents are helping with events like the holiday fruit-basket drive that just finished, raising nearly $2,000. Others are looking into corporate and local business sponsorship for the project.

And each student who will be going to Scotland is required to come up with a way to raise money for the effort.

Raising money
Student Carl Langley-Wilbur, the “Bottle Man,” has been collecting returnable bottles and cans, though he hasn’t gone as far as taking over the town’s bottle shed for a month. He has, however, gotten donations of returnables from as far away as Falmouth.

He said it is a project that extends beyond the borders of Cape Elizabeth.

“It’s representing the state of Maine,” Langley-Wilbur said. He has found that people across the region want to participate.

Other students ran events called “Fringe Saturdays” through the fall, with car washes and bake sales, and what theater teacher Dick Mullen called “all the traditional” ways of raising money for school-related events.

Some students just completed “Project Strong Arm,” in which they worked on a wide variety of projects throughout the community, raking leaves and doing other chores for people, in exchange for donations.

“The students have been out in the community,” said student Sarah Bartlett, president of the theater council, students who with Mullen coordinate the theater department’s shows and projects.

On Dec. 7, the next project will kick off at Wal-Mart in Scarborough, with a bicycle raffle and popcorn snack sale to earn money from people outside Cape Elizabeth who want to contribute. Wal-Mart will also match the first $500 raised, Bartlett said.

And on Dec. 14 and 21, parents will be able to drop off their elementary-school age children at the high school auditorium for a day of supervised fun.

“It’s a chance for the parents, if they want to go Christmas shopping,” Bartlett said.

Other students are working on setting up a small singing group to raise money by singing carols, and may even learn Scottish folk tunes or songs from the Scottish-themed musical “Brigadoon.”

All of the efforts, Mullen said, reflect a “high level of commitment” to the fund-raising effort and the trip.

“They’re thinking big, which we want kids to do,” Mullen said.

Some of the students were worried about the money initially, but things are going well now, said student Michelle Wissley, who also gave credit to Mullen for his efforts over the years building the theater program.

Student Bree Douty said each activity so far has made more than it was projected to make.

In Scotland
The students will be overseas for a total of two weeks in August 2003, Mullen said, starting with a short stop in London. Bartlett said the students might be able to see a show, check out costume shops and even do a workshop with a theater group.

Then they will go to Edinburgh and stay for 10 days, performing their show four or five times. They will live, with their chaperones, in a dorm at the University of Edinburgh, which, Mullen said, is a very safe place in a very safe city, with a 24-hour security staff.

“We’ll also get a chance to see theater from other American high schools and others around the world,” Bartlett said.

The students and Mullen are still deciding what they will perform, but they expect it to be a show they will prepare and put on for the community this year, Bartlett said.

One possibility is a one-act entitled “Metamorphoses,” originally written in Latin by the ancient poet Ovid, and adapted by playwright Mary Zimmerman.

Students will perform the show in March, and Mullen said it would be a “world high school premiere.” And in the “Theater Live” class, students are adapting various works into stage productions, which are also possibilities for Edinburgh.

Mullen went to Scotland this past summer, to get a glimpse of what the theater space will be. It is an old church now converted for play performances.

It has a smaller stage and seating area than the CEHS auditorium, and lacks the thrust stage that brings the play’s action closer to CEHS audiences.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said student Amanda Gibson. She appreciates the degree of student work that is going into the project. “I think it’s going to be so much more rewarding,” she said.

And for some students it will be a first-in-a-lifetime. Student Megan Culver will be leaving the country for the first time, and Wissley has never been on an airplane. Thinking about the prospect of this, Culver exclaimed, “We have to get passports!”