Theater department accepted to perform at Scotland’s Fringe Festival

This December, the theater department found out they were chosen to perform at the American High School Theatre Festival as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Fringe is the largest performing arts festival in the world, hosting more than 3,000 performances and spanning 25 days. The American High School Theatre Festival was created to showcase the best U.S. and Canadian high school theater groups at the Fringe. Between 50 and 100 groups typically attend, and Westlake will be a part of this exclusive festival in August 2017.

Westlake was nominated by an anonymous member of the University of Texas Theater Department, after which theater teacher Meredith Yanchak submitted an application.

“I just clicked ‘send’ and didn’t really think we were going to get in,” Yanchak said. When Yanchak found out that her humility was unmerited and that they were accepted, she wrote a song on her ukulele to let her class know that the AHSTF had chosen them to go to Scotland.

In the application, Yanchak had to explain why Westlake’s drama team is special, and after only one year at Westlake, she had quite a bit to talk about, most of which occurred last year. Not only did they have a new teacher, but current junior Zoe Ashton, who was recovering from leukemia, came down with pneumonia on the opening day of Fantastic Mr. Fox and was forced to miss her lead role.

The cast was forced to perform without her. Several months later, when Zoe returned, they decided to re-rehearse and re-perform the play so that she could take her original spot as the lead.

“It was the best gift I had ever received,” Zoe said. “For people that I look up to and love so much to do that for me … I’m always going to remember that day.”

“I thought that spoke a lot about who they are and what they do for people in the program,” Yanchak said.

This dedication to the program and its members earned them a chance to perform at the largest venue of their high school careers.

“It’s more than just theater, it’s like a family, and we work so hard together and we’re such a great group that I think going to Scotland is something we deserve,” Zoe said. “Being able to go [to Scotland] with my theater family here would be the ultimate ending to a high school career.”

Yanchak has already started the application process to determine who will go on the trip. They will then decide which play they plan to perform in Scotland based on who Yanchak chooses for the cast.

“We can’t take everyone who wants to go,” Yanchak said. “We have to make sure that the people who are going to go will represent the program well and are the most deserving candidates.”

The applicants are required not only to have an extensive theater background, but must also answer several essay question to explain what theater means to them and how they could contribute uniquely to the Scotland cast.

As for the rest of this school year, the Westlake theater department will perform a preview of its UIL one-act play competition piece at 7 p.m. March 11 in the PAC. They will also perform student-directed one-act plays during the first weekend of May.