As the Scotland company gets ready for this summer's performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Tessa Zitter '17 talks about the challenges of creating a theatrical piece of this complexity from scratch.
As the JCHS Scotland Company gets ready to take its original production, "Alice & the Black Hole Blues" to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, inews.co.uk has an interesting article on the history behind some Fringe venues.
And so, after years and months and weeks and days, it finally ends. The last days of our Scotland trip have arrived. When we looked upon our itinerary and saw our last day, filled with only a closing ceremony, it looked on paper quite docile and plain, but these closing moments have been among the most riveting on the trip.
Putting on a show in a foreign country with a (mostly) foreign audience requires a lot of work. While we have spent the last week in Edinburgh seeing countless other shows, we have also spent a considerable amount of time promoting out own.
Just a few hours ago, the JCHS theater company performed on the international stage at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This afternoon's first Fringe Festival performance of "The Metamorphosis" -- an original stage setting for Kafka's existential masterwork as if performed by a Jewish theater troupe in the Warsaw Ghetto -- drew rave reviews. I heard audience members exclaim, "Gripping," Haunting," Fast-paced," "Had me on the edge of my seat." This afternoon was the first of four JCHS performances in Edinburgh.
Last night, my comrades and I all took a moment to talk after a two hour rehearsal, Ms. Russell reminded us that it would be our last. Our last time as a company that we would add new things to a script started from scratch six months ago, our last time slowing things down, speeding things up, and taking things slowly again.
I’ve been studying and performing Shakespeare since I was seven. I’ve been learning about the theater in which his plays where originally performed, the Globe, for the same amount of time. Yesterday, I got the opportunity to visit the place about which I have heard so much, a place that, for me, is connected to Shakespeare unlike any else.
After 22 hours of airports and airplanes, we are finally in London. After two years of planning, our UK trip has finally begun. Needless to say, we are thrilled to be here.
Immediately upon clearing customs at the airport, we began our day with sightseeing. We saw classic locations like Big Ben and Royal Albert Hall. We then enjoyed a much needed meal at one of London’s few Kosher restaurants. After checking in at our hotel, we were given free time to explore the area. As Shabbat began, students joined together in a Kiddush.
As I look forward to the exciting date of our departure for Scotland, I’d like to take a look back at the way creating the production of The Metamorphosis helped me grow as an actor. There have been many aspects of this show that have taught me big lessons, such as the intense ensemble-icity of the show, the work we did on fundraising and advertising, and the process of working together to adapt Kafka’s work into our own.
Summer carries a very different meaning for each member of the Scotland Company. Some people just sit at home and relax. Some people go off to camp. Some people travel half way around the world, only to do it again in August. No matter what they are up to, Metamorphosis and the American High School Theater Festival (AHSTF) trip is probably the furthest thing from their minds.
At this point, you wouldn't think that there's a lot to blog about. School rehearsals are over. School performances are over. Even our Israel in the Gardens mini-performance is over. We won't start rehearsing again until August, we won't be performing for 39 days (from June 29th, when I'm writing this), and we won't leave for Scotland for 43 days. Yes... we're keeping count.
The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity for our Scotland Company. We got the chance to display the product of all our hard work when The Metamorphosis opened at JCHS, nearly a month ago now! Lest you think that we’ve been doing nothing since closing night at JCHS, I’m here to update you on one of our company’s latest escapades: performing at Israel In The Gardens, a yearly Bay Area outdoor festival celebrating modern Jewish and Israeli culture.
After being in five plays at JCHS I’ve grown accustom to a steady routine of script, blocking, memorization, tech week, performance, recuperation. When Ms. Russell first told us that we would be adapting our own script from a book I’ve never read I knew that my steady routine would be thrown out and replaced with uncertainty. While I was scared, I knew that with this group, we could pull it off.
As Opening Night of The Metamorphosis creeps closer, we are beginning to see the bits and pieces we have been working on be transformed into a cohesive, exciting performance. This is my seventh play at JCHS, and I have never experienced anything quite like this one. Each day brings something new and different.
In order to prepare for a fun and exciting trip to London, and Scotland to perform our own adaption of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, there was a lot of work to do involving fundraising and getting the word out!
When I found out that the JCHS theater department had been chosen to participate in the Fringe Festival in Scotland this summer, I didn't even consider the possibility of trying out. I had never been in a non-musical show at JCHS and I definitely did not think I was an experienced enough actress to take part in such an intense production. As the audition date began to near, though, I thought about how amazing of an experience it would be to go to Scotland and to put on a show for anyone to see. I knew there was absolutely no guarantee that I would get in but I decided to give it a shot and see what happened.
Oh how time flies! It seems like just yesterday we were learning what play we would be doing. When I learned it would be an adaptation of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, my heart fluttered. Franz Kafka is one of my favorite authors (my list of favorite authors numbers in the hundreds, but regardless). What makes this man so interesting, you ask? There are over one hundred reasons as to why we couldn’t have picked a better work by a better author to adapt.
Often when I look at a situation, I see certain things that can be easily improved or fixed, especially with the use of common technology. When Ms. Russell approached Noah Goldstein and myself with the need for a “virtual callboard” (which is a place where meeting times and other announcements are posted) we took it upon ourselves to make one for ourselves.
Each year the nation’s top high school theater programs are nominated by regional and national theater organizations to participate in the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Applications are reviewed by a board of college theater professionals from across the country. This year, the JCHS Drama Department was selected as one of the top 57 drama programs from among thousands of applicants in the US and Canada!
JCHS is grateful for generous operational, programmatic, and financial support from:
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.