All the World’s a Stage for Thespians

Natalie Thomison, Reporter

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Pierce

Students of the theater department traveled to Scotland this past summer to perform their original show “___ Happens” in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest theater arts festival. This was the second group that director Benjamin Webb has taken to the Fringe, the first being in 2014.

This year’s group, consisting of ten students, challenged themselves by creating an entirely student written, produced, and performed show inspired by the style of The Neo-Futurists. Their show was comprised of forty short plays, with genres ranging from comedy to drama to surrealism.

“___ Happens was a lot of vaudeville randomness, but it felt more real and legitimate that way. This type of show can create emotion and feeling without a coherent plot,” junior James Han said.

Through their work, the students explored controversial topics such as politics, religion, and sexuality. Senior Annellia Pierce enjoyed the creative freedom provided by a student written show.

“I like writing about things that other people don’t want to write about. I’ve spent most of my life in a controversial environment, which influenced my writing,” Pierce said. “Many of the audience members were shocked that the show was completely student written.”

___ Happens was an interactive show, allowing the audience to “fill in the blank” by choosing which play from the program they wanted to see next. According to the students, the audience never got tired of it.

“Our show allowed the audience to join our world as we dared to be bold,” Han said.

Through the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the students gained exposure to new types of theater and performance.

“The Fringe is an extremely humbling experience. You are surrounded by people of your tribe who are masterful in the craft. Students come back as different performers and they are more knowledgeable,” Webb said.

Thousands of people attend the festival each year, making the Fringe a global community. Travelling overseas provided students with a different perspective of the world.

“I decided to go to the Fringe Festival because I wanted to travel,” Pierce said. “I got to see the world through a different perspective for once. I always thought people were different over there. The people are the same, it’s just the details that are different.”

Webb explains the experiences and leadership skills the students have acquired through the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will serve as a mechanism for going into the community and paying it forward to other students.

“As thespians, it is our charge to do our part well,” Webb said. “Students should be ambassadors of our community. I hope that students experience that process, become leaders, and take ownership over our program.

The thespians serve as one example of the ways in which students represent the school, including at the global level.

“The earlier you can go out and experience other cultures, the better off you are,” Principal Andrea Markert said. “The students who travel are talented and represent us well. It is just another positive thing about U-High to encourage people to come here.”

The students believe their experiences will help shape the future of the theater program.

“Once [future thespians] see what U-High theater has the capability to do, they will see the potential in themselves,” Pierce said.