OHS theatre participates in Scotland’s Festival Fringe


Andrews Mclellan, co-entertainment editor

The Edinburgh Festival, Fringe, is one of the largest arts festivals in the world. The event hosts around three thousand performances each year and has spectators coming from all around the world to experience the many great things that the festival has to offer. The festival had its debut in 1947 and makes this year the 75th anniversary of the festival. The festival begins in August and carries on throughout the month. Schools from all over the world strive for the chance to get invited to the festival, and this year OHS theatre received an invite. This year marks Oxford High School’s sixth year going to the festival.

John Davenport is Oxford High School’s theatre director and has been teaching in the Oxford School District for 22 years. Davenport has turned the theatre department in the right direction through OHS theatre’s recent success. After directing more than 100 plays at Oxford and winning multiple awards, Davenport has directed this year’s cast to Edinburgh.

“My favorite part about the festival is getting to witness it through my student’s eyes,” Davenport said. “I love being able to see first hand how the festival is able to change their lives and the ways that they view the arts.”

Getting invited to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is no easy task as the panel only selects around 30 schools throughout the United States. This selection process really demonstrates how talented this year’s cast is. The panel is filled with experienced performers and directors, so they know exactly what real talent looks like.

“To get invited to the festival you have to be selected by a panel composed of tons of theatre professionals and critics around the country,“ Davenport said. “They examine your school’s philosophy in regards to theatre education as well as the program’s body of work.”

The theatre department has been preparing for the festival since July 1, and the prep is a bit different than it would be for any regular performance. Having only one performance, “The Diviners”, to focus on has really given the cast enough time to perfect their performance. Another big difference between these types of performances is the stages, lighting, sound and the larger audience.

“The rehearsal process is a good bit more intense when preparing for an international stage rather than in Oxford,” Davenport said. “One big difference that works in our favor is that we are able to concentrate solely on the one piece whereas during the regular theatre season, we have other shows in which to prepare along with teaching/taking classes during the day.”

OHS senior Eli Nordstrom and has been performing under Mr. Davenport since he was a freshman. With all the rehearsal time taking place over the summer, the cast had to be even more dedicated and willing to put in long hours outside of school. Nordstrom was one of the many members of the cast who has put in countless hours to make the performance as memorable as possible.

“The experience was life changing,” Nordstrom said. “For the entire month of July we worked  for about 7-8 hours a day rehearsing and planning. We spent every day, all day together. The feeling of accomplishment after all that is indescribable.”

This year’s cast has been very special to0 Nordstrom. He has gotten extremely close with all of the members learning everyone’s strengths and weaknesses to help each other get better. He believes that along with his cast-mates the true person to credit for this year’s success was the director and teacher, Davenport. This year’s cast has a majority of upperclassmen providing the group with acting experience and maturity.

“I grew to love and trust my classmates more than any other group of people I’ve worked with
in the past,” Nordstrom said. “Mr Davenport, and those who came before us have built the reputation for our school, and the Fringe Festival trusted us enough to invite us back.”

Performing in a new environment gives one the opportunity to learn new strategies and makes
one get out of their comfort zone. This is beneficial because getting out of one’s comfort zone is one of the first steps to becoming a successful performer. The cast has also hit some obstacles along the way, but have used their experience and perseverance to get through them.

“The toughest part about acting in Edinburgh was adjusting to the new venue in Edinburgh, it was a tighter space than we have in Oxford and so last minute adjustments had to be made to our blocking,” Nordstrom said. “Our normal lives had been put on pause, and all of our attention was on the show and each other, and now we are all extremely close and comfortable working together.”

Performing and preparing for a specific play for a long time can really help one to see all of their pros and cons as a performer. Additionally, with former performers judging and critiquing the actors and actresses, cast members are able to gain a lot of knowledge and advice regarding their own performance.

“I think I learned a lot about how to be disciplined,” Nordstrom said. “My attitude towards work has improved a lot, especially when it comes to theatre.”

Nordstrom summarized the play as a story of broken people searching for a meaning during a hopeless time of life. The play takes place during the Great Depression, and follows the stories of an ex-preacher trying to make himself a new name away from his hometown. The preacher later settles into a town named Zion, as he attempts to separate himself from his past as a preacher.

Nordstrom plays the role of Melvin in the play. Melvin is a wannabe soldier who flunked out of basic training. He primarily served as a comedic relief character, but his longing to be a respected veteran of the army is in line with the theme of searching for a purpose.

“My favorite part about getting the role of Melvin in the play was the ability to act for the first time in a couple of years,” Nordstrom said. “I also played the viola in our live band, and was able to perform many of the sound effects while being off stage.”