Get Schooled: York Students Bring Talent to the Fringe

July 30th, 2010 by Kim Lenz

Locals know the kids at the York County School of the Arts are talented. Their spring musicals are must-sees for folks who enjoy theater – student or otherwise. But I was surprised to learn the SOA students have quite a following in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A group of 36 SOA students will travel to Scotland next week, where they’ll perform “Cinderella” before packed crowds at the American High School Theatre Festival, held in conjunction with the Fringe Festival. The Fringe Festival is the world’s largest performing arts festival. This will be the fourth time York has sent students to perform abroad; SOA students performed at the festival in 2001, 2003, 2007 and now, 2010.

Schools are nominated to attend the festival, and then complete official application for acceptance. York was one of 20 schools chosen to perform. Because the Fringe Festival is so large, performers are told to expect small audiences, but trip coordinator Michelle Cihak says that’s never the case for the SOA shows. “The average audience is an audience of three people,” she says. “We perform in a venue of 300 people and (director) Sonya Fischer’s shows are so top-notch, she has garnered quite a reputation.”

The York students are one of the few groups to sell out shows at the festival, she says. They even have Scottish fans who make an effort to see their shows; in past years they’ve performed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “My Fair Lady” and “High School Musical.”

Part of the draw is that all of the students are very experienced despite their young age. “Cinderella” is played by Alexa Allman, a recent graduate who traveled to Scotland when she was a freshman. All of the principal actors in the show will remain the same, and students who didn’t get to work backstage in the spring because of conflicting schedules will get their chance to work the show in Scotland. It’s not like they’re performing at theater camp; they’re touring professionally.

“It is a really good resume builder,” Cihak says. “When these kids go to audition, being able to say that they performed at the Fringe Festival is a true feather in their cap. For a number of the students, they’ll be reviewed by the international press … not many 18-year-olds have that credential.”

To attend the festival, students had to raise enough money to cover the $6,500 cost for travel, room and board. With help from the school’s Parent Advisory Board, they tried every type of fundraising imaginable, Cihak says, from car washes to performances to letter campaigns.

They will leave the U.S. on Aug. 3 to travel to London, where they’ll spend two days before boarding a train to Edinburgh with their fellow performers from other high schools. Once there, they’ll stay in the dormitories at the University of Edinburgh, which are transformed into a youth hostel for the American students for the duration of their trip. Their last day will be Aug. 16.

While their performances are a treat for audiences, the trip is a treat for them. They meet students from across the United States and share the unique experience of performing together overseas. They share meals and attend each other’s shows. Many of them are good friends by the end of the two-week trip.

“It’s really neat to see the friendships that are forged,” Cihak says. “With social networking and Facebook, the moment they get off the plane, they’ve friended everyone.”

If you’re interested in seeing the show before the kids head off to Scotland, you can watch final dress rehearsals open to the public at Bruton High School this weekend.

Spots Open at Girl’s Basketball Camp
There are still some spots open for the city of Williamsburg’s last Girl’s Basketball Camp of the summer. The camp is open for girls ages 9-14 and runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 2-5. Warhill High School’s girl’s basketball coach Bingo Brungot will serve as instructor for the camp. The camp costs $50 per participant and will be held at the Quarterpath Recreation Center. To reserve a spot, call 259-3760.

Return Overdue Books to Help Schools
The York County Public Library is conducting its semi-annual School Supplies for Fines fundraiser from Aug. 1-14. Patrons with overdue books, CDs or other materials can have their fines waived if they bring in school supplies for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. One new packaged item or container will pay one fine, regardless of the fine’s amount.

Patrons should bring their library card and school supplies to the Circulation desk at either Tabb or Yorktown Library to receive credit on their account. The School Supplies for Fines program does not apply to charges for lost or damaged items.

A list of suggested school supplies is available on the library website here. The donations will benefit York County elementary schools.

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