Twelve Stow-Munroe Falls High School students and recent graduates are looking forward to the opportunity of a lifetime as they head for the famed Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, next month.
Current students Greg Blazosky, Marissa Christian, Bailey Cole, Skyler DeMita, Wyatt Hayes, Lane Hedler, Elliot Matz, Rachel Pokelsek and Elizabeth Witwer as well as graduates Sarah Marmash, Alicia Sloan and Alex Toth will make the jump across the pond Aug. 10 to participate in the American High School Theatre Festival component of the event.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest fringe festival, running Aug. 2-26 and featuring more than 2,500 shows in more than 250 venues. The Stow Drama Club is one of just more than 50 high school groups from the United States and Canada selected to participate in the festival. The group was nominated by Kent State University theater professor Eric van Baars and then went through a strenuous application process in late 2011.
Director Robert Putka, who retired from the high school last year after 37 years teaching art in the district, continues to work with Stow-Munroe Falls students in theater. He has directed 61 plays at the high school, including junior and senior class plays, drama club productions and the all-school musical.
Last year, Putka got to go to Edinburgh to scout out the high school program. When he returns with the kids this year, they’ll fly into Heathrow Airport in London, take in the musical Wicked on the West End, enjoy a guided tour of London and the Globe Theatre, and then take a charter train with just American High School Theatre Festival participants from London to the festival.
The group will stay in dormitory bed and breakfasts at the University of Edinburgh, do plenty of sightseeing, take in a number of other high school productions plus see a professional production by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets. Sightseeing will include tours of Sterling Castle, Edinburgh Castle and a viewing of the famed Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a day trip to the Trossachs lake region, and seeing traditional ceilidh Scottish dancing.
The Stow kids will perform The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) four times at the festival’s Churchill Theatre, returning to the States Aug. 23. Putka said he’s tickled that the Stow group is listed in both the online and printed program, which can be seen at https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/programme.
“It’s an unbelievable experience and these kids will be performing for an international audience,” Putka said.
The play distills all 37 of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies into a series of entertaining, madcap vignettes.
“I think it’s a refreshing kind of humorous, silly take on Shakespeare’s work, from the viewpoint of high school kids,” Putka said.
The director said just one other Ohio high school group, one from Gahanna, will participate in the Edinburgh program.
Once the Stow-Munroe Falls Drama Club was accepted in early 2012 for the 2013 Fringe Festival, the serious fundraising began. The trip costs nearly $6,000 per student. The group includes 10 actors, two student lighting techs and four adult chaperones, including Putka, for a total trip price tag of more than $90,000, with students paying a portion of their costs.
More than a year of fundraising has included selling candy, discount cards, coupon books and holding singing and dance competitions. For every mainstage show at the high school, a challenge has been offered to the audience to raise anywhere from $400 to $1,000 on the spot. When the challenge was met, Putka appeared onstage during intermission wearing a kilt with complete ensemble that he bought in Scotland.
The kilt challenge alone raised $5,000. The students also thank individual donors, including family, friends, teachers and administrators, local businesses, and the Friends of Theater parent group.
Putka, 61, said the fundraising has been daunting but the group is revved up.
“This is really quite a thing and we’re really excited. I don’t know if I’ll get to do this again,” he said.
Local audiences can help send the drama club off by attending their final fundraiser at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 — a performance of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in the high school auditorium, 3227 Graham Road, Stow. Donations will be accepted at the performance.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.