One month after being invited to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe — the largest arts festival in the world — the Glendale High School drama program has launched a major fundraising effort to make the trip a reality.
Mack Duggard, who has headed the program for 22 years, said he is reaching out to community organizations and local businesses to help cover the $6,300-per-student cost. He hopes to take about 17 students to the August 2012 event, as well as a handful of technicians to help with staging, costume, makeup and music.
“We are not exactly the richest school in the district,” Duggard said. “At some schools, parents would just pony up money and away you go. But in this school, we are going to have to do some serious fundraising.”
Known as the Fringe, the Edinburgh, Scotland-based festival consists of three weeks of theater and comedy played out in venues including parks, historic castles, churches, tents and private homes. In recent years there have been more than 2,000 different shows, some by the world’s elite live performers
“This is huge,” said Glendale High School senior and student actor Argishti Stepanian, 17. “Every famous Shakespearian actor, every famous standup comedian got famous at the Fringe Festival… It is bigger than Cannes or Sundance.”
Duggard in December began the application process after being nominated by a Los Angeles City College theater professor who had seen a Glendale High School drama production. In May, the school was notified that it was one of 49 invited to perform as part of the American High School Theatre Festival, one of many categories within the Fringe.
“It is the largest thing that has happened to us in a long time, since I have been here,” Duggard said.
If they are able to attend, the Glendale contingent will prepare a single work that will be staged at least four different times during the length of the festival. Duggard is currently considering three options: “Mother Wove the Morning” by Carol Lynn Pearson, “Whistling Past the Graveyard” by Jim Robinson and “Illusion,” an adaptation of a work from the 17th-century French playwright Pierre Corneille.
Glendale High School drama students described the invitation as an affirmation of the high-quality productions the program puts on semester after semester. Performances regularly attract industry professionals, including agents who are scoping out talent, they said.
“Part of the reason we probably got in [to the Fringe] is because Mr. Duggard always picks shows that aren’t high-school level,” said Mahala Mason, 17. “A lot of high school drama teachers are like, ‘Ok, this is what you are capable of.’ He always challenges us.”