High school drama students played in the Yard last weekend — performing in a new (for them) up-Island setting to match the students’ new much-upped fund-raising goal: enough money to take a strong ensemble to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year.
This fundraiser was particularly significant for the drama department because of their long-term endeavor to raise $6,000 per student to participate in the Fringe, at the invitation of a national student theatre organization.
Supporters settled amid the Chilmark choreography colony, enjoying cocktails and barbecue dinner under dimly lit Japanese lanterns that dangled from pitched tents. “I was absolutely blown away by the entire atmosphere,” said student Devin Colter. “It’s been very impressive.” The audience was thoroughly entertained by tableside talent throughout dinner, in which guests had the opportunity to order a singing duet or a fight sequence from a menu of talent.
After dinner, the crowd filled seating all the way to the very back benches of the venue. The head of the drama department, Kate Murray, took a moment to thank everyone for their support before the show: “I cannot tell you how lucky we are. The only way that this could have happened is with talented and dedicated students who really get what commitment means.”
Alumna and standup comedienne Alison Carr, emcee of the evening, kept the audience laughing as she led the audience through a program that ranged from a medley of songs from the year’s high school musical, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, to the monologue Pickles by Kristen Parece, from solos sung by Ashley Girard, Emily Mercier, Emma Frizzell, Taylor Perrotta and Tessa Permar, to a dance performed and choreographed by Emily Goldthwait, an original monologue sequence by Christian Walter, and finally Hallelujah, an impromptu crowd-pleaser performed by Austin Gamfor, Jerome Pikor and Max Martin.
The students finally performed Letters, the drama department’s award-winning original work, which earned them their nomination to the Fringe Festival. Students came in marching to the words of rapper Eminem, wearing soldier, doctor and nurse costumes, creating a booming sound effect, clapping and calling to the audience’s attention. With dramatic monologues addressing different issues, Letters is a complex performance with highly developed portrayals of psychologically rounded characters and fully explored duality between internal and external conflicts of love and war.
The instrumental background coincided with the gripping emotional intensity demonstrated throughout play. The show provoked quite an emotional response from the audience members, who watched intently as performers acutely conveyed the complexity of their multilayered characters. Kate Murray watched appreciatively from a back row.
Ms. Murray declared herself “more than satisfied” with the turnout and with her students.
Organizer Val Estabrook, who is head of BravEncore, a community nonprofit formed to raise money for the drama department, said the crowd was what they were hoping for.
“It could not be a more beautiful setting,” Ms. Estabrook said. “We’re here because of [the Yard’s artistic director Wendy Taucher]. She reached out to the high schools — the Yard donated everything.”
Ms. Murray agreed, and implored, “We are looking for angels, benefactors, and underwriters for our trip to Scotland. We want a strong troupe.”
Although the department’s fund-raising network is continually expanding — it now includes a Scottish publication — there is still much more money to be raised. Ms. Estabrook closed the tally for the night, but not the efforts, by saying: “Tonight starts what has to become a yearlong effort. We begin a year now — we’ve had a wonderful time.”