The Vermillion High School Theatre Department presented its original play “ANTics” Friday night in the Thomas H. Craig Performing Arts Center at Vermillion High School.
It was a chance for a hometown audience to see the play before the cast and crew begin their journey tomorrow to Edinburgh, Scotland, where the young actors will present the play four times at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The Vermillion Theatre Department selected to take part in the festival last spring. “ANTics’” cast is Bethany Bentz, Suki Ford, Emma Dahlhoff, Gracie Mollet, Tessa Dooley, Annika Holdhusen, Jake Oehler and Anna Bottesini.
Director is Mary Begley and Ariel Begley is assistant director. The cast’s movement coach is Pam Ford and its sound technician is Kayla Farmer.
Original music for the play was composed and played by Vermillion High student Ian Kocher.
“The American High School Theatre Festival is an organization that provides educational trips and promotes theatre experiences for students,” said Mary Begley, VHS theater department advisor, in a report that appeared in the Plain Talk July 19. “They are the ones that sent a request to college and university faculty and asked them to recommend top high school theatre programs in their area.
“Based on those recommendations that come from theatre professionals and educators, the American High School Theatre Festival sends out a letter saying that you’ve been recommended,” she said. “Vermillion High School received a letter saying that our program had been recommended to be considered for this opportunity to go to Scotland and perform in the largest theatre festival in the world which is called The Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland.”
The festival is an annual event.
“Once you’ve received that letter saying that you’ve been recommended, then you have to put together an application,” Begley said. “They sort through the applications and pick the high schools that will be the ones that will go to Edinburgh.”
Vermillion High School thespians learned last spring that they had been chosen. They will do more than perform “ANTics” when they arrive in Scotland.
They will have a chance to see other theatre shows and do some touring. They will earn college credit, also, as part of the whole experience.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet, according to the event’s web page, adding that every August for three weeks the city of Edinburgh welcomes an explosion of creative energy from around the globe.
Explosion may be an understatement. In 2017, the festival included 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues. The upcoming event likely will be of the same scope.
Vermillion’s young actors will soon join thousands of performers who will take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for every taste.
From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.
“The Fringe Festival isn’t specifically geared toward high school performers,” Begley said. “It’s theatre performance groups, music groups -- any kind of performance art from all over the world doing shows in Edinburgh during two weeks every summer.
“The Fringe Festival is something that actually happens in different cities all over the world,” she said. “Minneapolis has a fringe festival but they’re always associated with theatre and the very first one happened in Edinburgh, so this is the oldest running Fringe Festival and the largest in the world.”
Vermillion students will have an opportunity to view shows put on by professional and amateur theatre companies from all over the world.
“Some will be high school; some will be adult,” Begley said. “It will be a variety. One of the trip advisors that I talked to said that if you were to go to every show that was listed in last year’s festival, it would take seven years to see all of them. There are thousands of theatre productions that go on during that time in Edinburgh.”
The Vermillion High School actors will be part of a group of approximately 20 other troupes from high schools throughout the United States selected by the American High School Theatre Festival to take part in this year’s event in Scotland.
The three-week-long festival begins in late July and runs for three weeks.
“We’re going to be there for two weeks,” Begley said. “We’re leaving on July 27 and we’re coming back on Aug. 9.”
Friday night, the cast and crew recognized local efforts in the past year by Vermillion citizens of all walks of life that helped make their trip to Scotland possible, including fundraising support from the Vermillion Community Theatre, Drama Boosters and the Vermillion Schools Foundation.
Steve Ford helped organize a “Vermillion’s Got Talent” competition and fundraiser to help finance the trip.
Financial help also was provided with the help of Steve Miller and many local churches who participated in the “A Christmas Carol” fundraising event held late last year.
“ANTics,” she said, is a comical, original movement theatre show.
“Myself and Ariel Begley, who is my assistant, and Pam Ford, who teaches at VADO (Vermillion Area Dance Organization) and the students -- we all put our brains together and came up with the story that has to do with ants,” Begley said.
The performance, she said, is “symbolic of our human society in a comical way. The show is structured as little vignettes that, put together, combine to make about a 45 minute show.”
The VHS students decided to use movement theatre with no spoken lines as the format of their performance after Begley’s experience last year when she visited the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh.
Two things immediately became apparent, she said.
“There are so many thousands of shows and you get a big booklet that lists all of the shows,” Begley said. “Ariel went with me, and I said to her, ‘we have to do a show that starts with A, because you just don’t get to the back of the book when you’re looking at (the titles) of all of those shows.”