Photo by Mary Ficker
Story by Abby Chovan
As the crowd shuffles out of Studio One still buzzing with talk of former theatre director Chris Bundy’s straight play Ashes, techs and actors have already begun to make their way back on stage. They have no time to lose when it comes to packing up the show, so all of them act quickly to move props and costumes. The need for rush is due to the fact that in just two short days from their closing show on July 27, the whole cast will leave to take their show to Scotland for two weeks.
FC’s theatre department was invited over a year ago to attend the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a part of the American High School Theatre Festival. Students made the commitment to attend almost right after the announcement, but rehearsals did not begin until this July. The department was consumed with the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska throughout the end of June, so the meetings and rehearsals did not officially begin until afterwards.
This process made for a quick and tight schedule for all the actors to develop their characters, which proved to be a challenge. Even without a time crunch, developing several characters for one show can be difficult.
“This show challenged me with having to play completely contrasting characters, and especially over the top characters. I play Janice, a hippie whose cat just died and she acts hysterical. Then I play Ella, a crotchety old lady. Then Lila, a teenager who can speak to the dead. [..] it’s been a really good show for me to grow and become more confident in my choices,” said senior Isabella Arnett.
For some actors, this show was a complete change from their normal theatre experience. Alumni stage manager, props master, and cast member Hannah Tarr, who remained a tech student throughout her four years of high school, joined the cast for this production. Being new to the center of the stage and used to being behind the scenes, it challenged her to expand her skillset.
“This show has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. When we went into that first rehearsal on Monday, I didn’t really know how to get into the actor zone. I was just up there on stage being Hannah Tarr. All that day and the next I had to work really hard to find my three characters and figure out how to show the audience it isn’t Hannah Tarr on stage. I realized the amount of effort that takes, but I also realized how vital it is to making a good performance,” said Tarr.
Even once all the actors were able to find balance within the show and ready to begin performances, another curveball was thrown at them. Arnett noted that it wasn’t until the night before the show when they figured out transitions between scenes. Buddy wrote fake obituaries that were read aloud, giving time for the actors to prepare for the next scene.
The techs for this show were also given a difficult task. Tarr had to plan the show so that the entirety of all set pieces and props could fit into one suitcase.
“As props master, I had to think about the practicality of everything. I had to keep in mind that […] this suitcase was going to be thrown around by people at the airport, so there couldn’t be anything fragile in it. It also couldn’t be too heavy because we had a 50 pound weight limit on the bag. Throughout the whole process I was keeping in mind that things had to be small, light, and strong. I didn’t add an excetra things or anything, we pretty much only had the props that we really needed to have,” said Tarr.
Once everything had come together, the actors and techs alike had to take it all apart and head to Scotland. They left July 29 and didn’t return until two weeks later on August 9. This created some difficulty for the students in the program who wouldn’t be at home for the start of school.
“It hasn’t been easy because my teachers have been really bad at emailing me. I was able to talk c two in person and one has been emailing me about what I need to do,” said Arnett.
Tarr, though she graduated this past June from FC, is also having to balance college and the trip as well.
“While I’ve been here, I’ve been thinking about what I need to pack for college, what I need to get, and the fact that like a week after I get back I move in,” said Tarr.
Despite the struggles that the start of school has presented, the students within the program have noted that the pros outweigh the cons.
“Now here (at the festival) our audiences have […] laughed at different moments, so it’s brought a different energy, but it has been fun. This whole trip has just been a really cool experience and I’m grateful I’ve been able to have this chance,” said Tarr.
“Scotland has been amazing and I’m so glad I’ve been able to get closer to everyone on the trip.”