The gray clouds on the drive to the airport floated to the strains in my mind from the Scottish tune "You take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland before ye..."
With much anticipation, question after question interrupts my personal musical moments. Can we, Harlem High School, take this high road to Edinburgh, Scotland, and participate in the prestigious Festival Fringe? As we begin to board our plane, a familiar face appears in the crowd, Robbie Davis from Lee County, the other school from Georgia. We represent the only other schools ever accepted from Georgia, four in the last 10 years. I find that I am in a very elite group. Each school represents an incredible theater program. Each director offers countless plans of their approach to show selections, audition processes, and the fund-raising responses from their communities.
Arriving in Edinburgh, we are whisked to Edinburgh University, the headquarters for American High School Theatre Festival - one of the largest components of the Fringe. After dinner, we learn that the Royal Mile is the street where much is happening. Everything seems to glow with the magic of theatre. Two days have disappeared, but it seems as one long dream. Is it the heat or the excitement that keeps me awake? Where are the butterflies I have felt since HHS was chosen to participate? I am definitely on the high road.
A morning a fog seems to hang over the city and surrounding mountains with the coolness that we expected to find in Scotland. We visit the Church Hill Theatre, an old church converted into a theater. It is slightly smaller than our own Imperial Theatre. The technical team that assists AHSTF meets us responding to the barrage of questions about mounting a show here. Bringing a show will be very challenging, and being flexible and adaptable are the keys to success. We watch a school load an it is quick, efficient and precise. The costumes and set are creative, and props are minimal.
The Fringe experience is what Harlem drama is in any season - adaptable, flexible and creative. Harlem High Drama has the students and teachers whose talents and gifts that can insure success. We have the best choreographer, musical director and parent boosters to make this happen. Can we raise the money needed to get here to represent our school, our community and our state in front of the world?
Scotland is rich in history and tradition. We visit Holyrood Castle, Queen Elizabeth II's official Scottish residence. During lunch, I along with others try haggis with tatties and neeps. As Southerners, the tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnip roots) are familiar. In a closer look at Edinburgh, I easily am lost in the charm of the people and this great city. I draw strength and reassurance from being among the real folks of Scotland. I want my students to experience this.
Early Saturday morning, Davis and I tour Edinburgh castle. Our guided tour of this medieval fortress once again forces me to recall lessons in history and is complete with sounds of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace" in the distance. The Crown jewels, Stone of Destiny and a real live knight complete the tour. Wandering back down the Royal mile from the castle, I splurge and buy a kilt. When in Scotland, I figure "why not?"
Our free time over, we hurry to catch an AHSTF musical production. The cast does well, and it energizes me once again. In my mind's eye, I see Harlem High students performing in front of the world. Sitting in the audience, I can hear the buzz of several different languages being spoken, but the experience of the theater is universal. Several people, not Americans, sing the words to familiar songs during the performance
I hope Grandpa (Vern Cargill) and I can figure how to design, construct and transport the set to Edinburgh in suitcases.
After dinner, we attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This show is an amazing demonstration of music and history performed in front of the Edinburgh castle on the Esplanade. I develop an appreciation for the discordant bagpipe music as they perform, making each melody so haunting. The evening extravaganza ends with a fireworks display and a solo piper playing a pibroch lament from the Castle battlements.
Part of the Fringe is a lot like our own Arts in the Hearts festival. The energy and excitement of the festival is everywhere.
Monday morning we board our bus to head to the Troussachs. We are in Braveheart country. The countryside is breathtakingly beautiful. Heather and thistle dot the landscape painting different hues of lush greens. As we travel the country and stop at picturesque places, Stirling Castle rises on a rocky hill. As we wind our way back through lochs and hills, once again our guide unfolds many similarities in ways of life in Scotland and of our home in the South. It is romantic, historical and inspiring to hear, see and touch this place.
Back in Edinburgh, we pick up last minute gifts and pack. We squeeze in one more evening at the Fringe with newfound friends. Butterflies have given way to new memories of mirrored lochs and gentle cool breezes that pour down from the Troussachs. Excitement builds through the beauty and history of a great city that exposes theater to the world.
he journey will not be an easy one. We must raise $120,000 to journey to this magical and wonderful place. We cannot make this journey on our own. It will be a journey of faith and desire to take the high road of adventure.
(Roy Lewis, the drama teacher at Harlem High School, attended the 2003 Festival Fringe in Scotland to prepare for Harlem's 2004 participation.)
Contributors to date to Harlem's Fringe fundraising effort:
AJ Nail Salon
Bonnie M. Black
Cavalier Home Builders
Church of the Good Shepherd
Dr. Dewey Kitchens
Dr. Larry E. Tune
Erica and Jonathan Stevens
Ernest D. Levinson
First National Bank and Trust .
Georgia Bank & Trust
Grovetown Bargain Center
Harry's Barber Shop
Honorable Barry Fleming
Honorable Dudley Bowen
Howard Lumber Company
John A. Teasely II
Mary G. Jones
Mike's Automotive Center
Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Blalock
Mrs. Ann Boardman
Mrs. Mary Etna Dudley
Ms. Barbara Howard, HHS
Patrick and Karen Frost
Thomson Chrysler Jeep
Renee Meyer Dean Photography
Harlem High Cheerleaders
Columbia County Arts Inc.
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