BREWER, Maine — Students from Brewer High School will have the opportunity to participate in the American High School Theatre Festival in the summer of 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The festival is part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest performing arts festival. Each year, between 25 and 35 high school theater groups from the United States and Canada are invited to perform a play, attend events at the festival and tour London and Edinburgh.
“To be able to see so many different kinds of performances and literally every aspect of the performing arts is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Richard Kimball, the director of the Brewer Youth Theatre program. He said he has not yet decided on the play his students will perform in Edinburgh, but that it will emphasize acting ability rather than elaborate sets or technical wizardry.
The Brewer Youth Theatre program has been a flourishing part of Brewer’s schools for about 15 years. Students in the program participate in regional drama festivals and have advanced to the state level festival four times in the last seven years, Kimball said.
Brewer High School sophomore Reed Davis, 15, worked behind the scenes on plays while in middle school. When he became a freshman, he said Kimball encouraged him to audition for a one act play and, to his surprise, he was cast. He has been hooked since.
“I’m so glad that he, honestly, pressured me into it,” Davis said. “I’ve met some of my best friends in drama.”
Since 1998, the group has put on more than 100 plays, including “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Chicago” and “The Fantastics” in recent years.
In 2011, the program got a boost when the Brewer Performing Arts Center, a 487-seat theater with professional lighting and sound capabilities, was built in the Brewer Community School.
Kimball said his theater group has applied and been invited to perform at the festival in Edinburgh in the past, but the timing never worked out before this year.
“The last time was when they were fundraising for the performance space and we didn’t want to cause confusion,” Kimball said.
The festival’s board of advisors select the schools based on “most recent bodies of work, honors and awards, technical ability, community involvement, philosophies, recommendations and overall dramatic excellence,” according to the festival’s website.
Kimball said he learned in an email just before winter break that Brewer had been accepted this year and immediately began spreading the word to faculty and students.
“I felt really honored because I know this festival is really big in Scotland,” said Brewer High School junior Catelyn Kimball, 16. “It obviously means we’re getting recognized for all the hard work.”
Kimball, who is not related to the theater director, has been performing in school plays since she was in sixth grade.
“We really look at it as a seven-year program and I think that’s one of the things that really appealed to the selection committee,” Rich Kimball said, referring to the fact that middle school students are also able to participate in the program.
He expects that between now and the summer of 2015, the group will have to raise $120,000 in order to send about 15 students on the trip.
Though the criteria to determine which students will get to go has not been worked out yet, Kimball said that acting ability and dedication to the program will be factors.
The theater program will soon begin soliciting donations from local businesses and at their upcoming performances.