From Home to the Stage, 4626 Miles Away

Theatre Students Prepare For Fringe Festival


Photo Courtesy of Isa Morgan

Rehearsing their lines, the cast of Carrie rehearses their musical scores on September 23rd. Carrie as well as many other shows will be going to fundraising for the Edinburg Festival performance. According to tech director Colin Falk, “The way that the season works is that a lot of our main shows are considered fundraisers, so all of the money we raise from ticket sales and concessions will go back into our budget for the next year,” Folk said. “Part of that budgeting is going towards the Fringe Festival, so naturally the more funds that we can raise with our tickets and the shows, the more money we have to help cut down the cost for everyone that’s going.”

Rachana Kommineni, Reporter

The only sound that could be heard was that of their breathing as they calmed themselves down. As the curtain opened, bright lights shined on their face as they prepared to start their performance. The audience was silent, patiently waiting for the lights to dim. The lead role said her first line full of confidence, and the performance of a lifetime began.

The theatre department was elected to perform with American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF), in which they perform four times within three weeks in August at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland in front of an international audience. Not only does the festival include plays, but also film, music and comedy.

Theatre Arts Director Alisa Mirabella heard that other schools in LISD had gone to the Fringe Festival in the past, and the teachers said that it was the best experience of their career and that the students really bonded with one another. She said she really wanted the students to have an opportunity to do something exciting, since they weren’t able to put on any shows last school year due to everyone being virtual.

“Last year, when we were in the midst of COVID-19, everyone was depressed because we weren’t doing anything, so I thought on a whim: ‘why don’t we apply and see what happens,’ so I did and we got picked,” Mirabella said. “I was so excited that we finally had an opportunity to do something so surreal as this, since I’ve never came across this opportunity within the four years that I have worked at this school.”

The cost for the trip will be roughly $6,000 per student, so Mirabella said that her goal is to fundraise half of that amount for each student. The Theater Department will be using part of their proceeds from their plays and money from their fund drive, where people can sponsor them and will be hosting various other fundraising opportunities throughout the year to help raise enough money, like advertising themselves to get sponsors.

“We are hoping that the generosity of strangers is gonna help us reach our goal,” Mirabella said. “We are also praying that the money we fundraise from our plays would cover some of the cost so that the students can play less and have a fun experience without worrying about the cost.”

For the Fringe Festival, the theater department is doing the play ‘Mrs. Packard,’ which has a small crew of six people. Technical Theater teacher Colin Falk said that the main stage musical this year, ‘Something Rotten,’ has a production crew of 33 people, and they need a handful more to actually operate the show. They need people running around on stage helping with costume changes, moving scenery and operating spotlights.

“Mrs.Packard has a very small crew as far as general shows are concerned,” Falk said. “One of the challenges for that was the cost of the trip that a lot of families couldn’t afford, which is something that has to be considered. [That] cut down the number of people interested and able to go on it. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, we know it’s a lot to ask, but we are excited for the ones that were able to.”

According to Falk, although the opportunity to do ‘Mrs. Packard’ is very exciting, there are many challenges, such as cost and transportation.

“The cost for it is not so much the concern as [is] the logistics of how do we put on a show across the ocean, because it’s not like here at the school, where we can carry all our scenery across the hall and we are at the stage,” Falk said. “We have to find a way to either carry pieces with us, transport them, rent some things when we arrive there or something else along those lines.”

At first, the play was supposed to be a one act play. This play is based on a true story about a woman who was put in a mental institution in the late 1800s because she was disobedient to her husband and fought to have those rules ended as well as have better conditions for all mental institutions.

“Falk and I decided that because we came off of such a depressing, dark year, that maybe it was not a good year for this for a competition play,” Mirabella said. “We decided that for one act, we should do something fun and light, and since ‘Mrs.Packard’ is such an important play, we thought that it would be a good one to travel with, and it also has minimal scenery and trying to get a whole show overseas is gonna be expensive.”

According to Mirabella, the theater department would have loved to take everybody who had an interest, but at the same time, the expenses are overwhelming, so they couldn’t take as many people, since there is a limit as to how many people are allowed to be part of the performance.

“We didn’t tell the kids when we applied because we didn’t feel like they could take any other disappointment,” Mirabella said. “So, we got really excited when we were chosen so that we could gift them with something to look forward to that was special to come out of such a horrible year.”

Both Falk and Mirabella had to turn in resumes, talk about numbers of kids, what kinds of shows they have put on and their sense of community.

“There is really very little disagreement and they really help each other,” Mirabella said. “When we got accepted, one of the things that they said they were the most impressed by was our sense of community. That’s something we are really proud of.”

Senior Ace Born auditioned for ‘Mrs. Packard’ because it is a true story, which, according to Born, makes the play all the more intriguing. She said she hopes to portray Mrs. Packard’s emotional struggle and her fight through her performance. Born said that she is a little nervous being a senior doing the show, but she plans to stay in contact with the college admissions team in order to do the show.

“The thought of being the only senior in this show is a little nerve wracking,” Born said. “I am nervous about the tight timeline of finishing Packard and then immediately starting college, but the opportunity to play the lead character at the biggest theatre festival in the world is exhilarating.”

Born chose to audition for the lead role of Mrs. Packard because her role is very dynamic. Mrs. Packard struggles because she has different views on religion than her husband who is a Reverend at the church. Because of this, he sends Mrs. Packard away to the ward without any trial to declare her sane or not. Packard suffers and witnesses a lot of abuse at the ward as she fights for her freedom, and this takes an emotional toll on her.

“She has to constantly fight for her rights and opinions while also appealing to those who have authority over her in order to be released from the ward,” Born said. “No matter how much she is challenged, she sticks to her morals. I am told that I am great at portraying emotions and making a scene feel real with my reactivity, so I hope to be able to correctly portray Packard’s internal and external struggles through my acting.”

Sophomore Jonathan Levinsky got the role of Mr. Blackman and other characters part of the ensemble. Levinsky has been into performing since he was in kindergarten when he was the third pig in “The Three Little Pigs.”

“It started with a passion for singing and when I realized that there was a way for me to not just sing but also express myself on stage, that being what theater is, I just sort of got hooked and it has a great community itself,” Levinsky said.

According to Levinsky, he wanted to partake in the Fringe Festival because these opportunities don’t come around very often, and he wanted a chance to be a part of that experience.

“The fact that the theater department will have a chance to show off its talents somewhere that’s over 4000 miles away is what attracted me,” Levinsky said.

Levinsky is no stranger to playing more than one character. In middle school, he was an alternate for UIL, and he had to learn the lines of multiple characters such as ‘Boy’ and ‘Peter,’ from the play “Lost Girl.”

“It is difficult to be more than one character, but it’s manageable and gives you more time to experiment,” Levinsky said. “You are gonna find different ways to play different characters, and since they operate in similar environments, it shouldn’t be too difficult to try to find different ways to play them.”

As a performer, one needs to be able to find different ways of playing each character and being able to experiment, according to Levinsky.

“As being part of an actor, something you may need to do is step outside of your comfort zone in order to extend your range of acting,” Levinsky said. “It’s all about trying to find ways to make sure all the different characters behave differently and it will help in the future if you audition because you will feel more confident auditioning for roles you normally wouldn’t do.”

Leveinsky said he is hoping to use this new experience in order to open his mind a little bit to new methods to incorporate into his acting style and improve his performances.

“I want to get better at differentiating between characters when I play more than one character so that the audience can tell the clear difference,” Levinsky said. “You have to make sure the audience knows what the character is thinking and what the reactions are.”

By attending the Fringe festival, Levinsky said he hopes to gain more knowledge based on how different people from various countries do theater.

“Here in the United States, we have Broadway, Hollywood and all kinds of different things,” Levinsky said. “You don’t really hear about as many productions coming from other countries as much, so it’s really going to be really exciting to see what they do and what methods they use.”