By Nick Kaye
Special to The Weekly
BREWER — Last December, the Brewer Youth Theatre program at Brewer High School received an invitation to perform at the American High School Theatre Festival in August 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The festival is part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest performing arts festival, drawing spectators from around the world.
In 2012 alone, the festival sold nearly 2 million tickets, and included 2,542 shows in 258 venues over 25 days.
The festival’s board of advisers selected the Brewer Youth Theatre and other participants based upon their “most recent bodies of work, honors and awards, technical ability, community involvement, philosophies, recommendations and overall dramatic excellence,” according to the festival’s website.
“We absolutely freaked out when we heard [we’d been invited,]” said Jacob Joy, assistant director of the Brewer Youth Theatre.
Joy recently returned from a preview trip to this year’s Festival Fringe. He joined other directors in viewing performances, networking, eating local food and exploring some of the scenery and landmarks of Scotland. Joy also familiarized himself with venues and public transportation in order to act as a guide when the Brewer Youth Theatre sends a group of approximately 20 student performers to attend next year’s festival.
“I saw it change kids when I was there,” said Joy. “When I was walking back one night, I saw a group of students crying because they had just performed for the last time together. They worked so hard for that, and it was so powerful.”
Although Brewer Youth Theatre Director Richard Kimball has yet to decide on the play his students will bring to the upcoming festival, the young performers already are brimming with anticipation.
“I’m excited to explore a completely foreign country, and to be able to meet new people, experience new things and perform,” said Brewer High School sophomore Reed Davis, 16, who has been involved with theater since middle school. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
One major obstacle stands between the theater program and the trip to Scotland: approximately $120,000 to cover all expenses. Although the figure is intimidating, Joy and Reed both feel confident the goal will be met.
A dedicated group of parents and students has begun to raise money through bottle drives, bake sales, yard sales and ticket raffles. Several donors, including Machias Savings Bank and Greenway Equipment Sales, also have contributed.
Between 10 and 15 percent of the goal has been met, according to Joy, but the fundraising effort is only beginning. An upcoming event is the The Zombies and Witches 5K Run, expected to be the largest fundraiser yet, will be held Saturday, Sept. 6.
A part of the city’s annual Brewer Days, the run will begin at 5 p.m. at the Brewer Community School and go down Parkway South to Elm Street and to the Dump Road and back. It’s far from a typical 5K, however, with participants registering as either humans, zombies or witches.
Humans runners receive a belt with three flags and must get to the end without losing their flags to the zombies, who have been costumed and strategically placed along the route.
The survivors — those who make it to the end with at least one flag — will receive Subway gift cards.
Witches must come with green faces, long noses, wearing a hat or carrying a broom. They can participate in the walk-run while observing the zombie attacks.
Registration is $25 humans and witches, $30 zombies, $15 children age 10 to 13, with zombie registration limited to 50 participants. To register in advance, visit zombiesandwitches5k.racewire.com. The first 200 runners to register will receive a Dri-FIT event T-shirt.
“This is our biggest fundraiser yet,” said Reed, who hopes the event will raise a significant amount of money toward the theater program’s goal.