Maureen Rohn's stepbrother got to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world's largest arts festival, five years ago, when Robinson Secondary's high-school theater-arts program won one of the slots for the Scotland affair.
Rohn, a junior at Robinson, was captivated by her stepbrother's stories about his two weeks at the annual, month-long, citywide event, which attracts more than 1,200 international performers.
"Ever since I came to Robinson, I've been asking Mr. [Chip] Rome [the school's theater-arts director] about the Edinburgh festival, and last year my mom saw a little write-up in the newsletter that we were nominated," Rohn said. "Then one day Mr. Rome came up to me and said here's the application. And oh, by the way, it's due today."
Rohn and three friends were able to secure an extension from the American High School Theatre Festival, which selects the American high-school participants in the Scottish festival, and set about filling out the 10-page, written application and creating a visual history, including photographs and a videotape, of the Fairfax school's past work.
The efforts of the foursome paid off when Robinson was notified it had secured a spot in the August 2002 festival. Then the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened, and Fairfax County Public Schools suspended all air travel for school-related events. Rome was able to defer the school's participation until 2003, banking on the school system's restrictions being lifted by then, but Rohn will have to be content to hear about the festival from her friends.
"I'm not going because of the whole terrorism thing. My mom won't let me go out of the country," Rohn said. "There were a lot of people who signed up that can't go now. I'm sure everyone who goes will have a good time."
EVEN THOUGH some students had to back out of the trip, 20 are currently registered to go; and by the time the first installment of the money is due in November, Rome expects to have 30 waiting to pack their bags. He said the trip will cost about $4,000 per student. To help offset the costs, the drama department has planned a number of fund-raisers, including a lock-in; a performance by the a cappella group, Da Vinci's Notebook; and donating the proceeds of its May musical, "The Sound of Music," to the cause.
"This year, we're asking parents to take a stronger role [in fund-raising], and if we can fill this place [for 'The Sound of Music'], we will make several thousand dollars," Rome said. "We're doing what we do best, and it has the potential to bring us the funding."
As a way to ensure there is money left over for the "Rams to Scotland" fund after covering the production costs, the school has increased the number of performances for the musical to five and raised ticket prices to $7 in advance, typically the at-the-door price, and $10 at the door.
While in Edinburgh, the students will perform four 1 1/2-hour shows. The rest of the two weeks is devoted to watching other performances, an event called Festival Day and sightseeing.
"Every church, street corner and pub becomes performing space," Rome said.
The trip includes a two-day stop in London before heading off to Scotland. The students will stay in the dorm rooms at Edinburgh University.
Typically, Rome does not allow the seniors on the trip since the drinking age is 18 in Europe, but because of the unexpected delay in the trip, he thought it would not be fair to exclude them this time around. He will rely on the students' judgment and "wonderful chaperons" to make sure there are no major problems.
"The kids get to know other kids from other states. It gives them a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves," Rome said. "They see the whole world is not like Fairfax, Virginia. That there they are different and yet they are the same."
ROME HAS NOT DECIDED what the department will perform yet, but he does know he wants it to be "very American, high-concept/low-tech, and something very flexible."
Because there are about 200 performances scheduled each day, the performing companies must use minimal sets and share props. Rome said that while the production itself probably will not require a lot of performers, each student on the trip will have work to do, especially on the technical side of the production.
Sophomore Cathleen Flanagan does not care what her role in the production is, she just can't wait to go.
"I went to Europe when I was in eighth grade, and I want to go again," Flanagan said. "I love to travel, and I love the theater. It was really cool [to hear about the trip], and I knew I wanted to go."
Flanagan said she's been involved with theater for two years now, and performing gets easier with every show. Even so, she's not sure how she'll react to performing in front of thousands at the festival.
"I want to perform, but if I can't, I want to design the costumes," she said. "I'm looking forward to meeting all the people. I think it is a good opportunity to learn about different styles of theater."