EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 17, 2013

On the Fringe

Lawrence High students help classmates get to theater festival in Scotland

By Yadira Betances

---- — LAWRENCE — In August, students from the Lawrence High School will take a piece of the city to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Fifteen students from the Performing and Fine Arts High School will perform “Circle Game” at the Fringe Festival, the largest of its kind in the world. The festival has attracted performers from across the globe since 1947. It will be held Aug. 2-26 and includes theater, comedy, dance, musicals, operas, music, exhibitions and events.

Before arriving in Scotland, the Lawrence students will tour London by bus and attend a show in the West End.

Matthew Evangelista, PFA theater teacher said the play explores what life is like in Lawrence for teenagers and adults while exploring urban stereotyping as seen in school and inner-city living. Evangelista and his wife, Jennifer Dargie came up with the script from stories they heard from previous students about living in Lawrence.

The show uses several black boxes covered with graffiti as the set. The actors sit and talk about everything from a teenager who cannot find a job because of his appearance and ethnic background; the reasons why a young boy decided to join a gang; a single mother who has two jobs to provide for her child and the stress that results and an academically talented student who cannot attend the college of her choice because she cannot afford it.

“This is not just a trip, it’s about bringing a little of ourselves and the story of Lawrence to a much grandeur scale. We’re teaching about theater, about living, how to be a better citizen and how to help change the image of Lawrence,” said theater teacher Matthew Evangelista.

Attending the festival in Scotland is another highlight of the theater department, Evangelista said. The program which started with 20 students now has 150 and presents four shows a year instead of two as it did in the beginning.

The total cost for the Scotland trip is $120,000 which also includes money to ship sets. Each student will pay about $6,500. The group has already paid close to $30,000, but still needs to raise $80,000.

Evangelista brushes off comments from people who say “If you don’t have the money, why go?”

“We have to stop listening to that, because if you don’t try, you’ll never get out of the circle, then you’re right we’ll never pull as a community and never make it happen.”

“If the city pulls together, it will absolutely happen. The more money we raise, the more opportunities the kids will have,” Evangelista said.

Cast members are Keisha Oleaga, Yesenia Vasquez, Carmen Darrach, Fernando Rodriguez, Jesse Fermin, Genesis Duran, Jahnilsa Cartegena, Sofia Cardenas, Natasha Torres, Paola anziani, Shaena Sandoval, Maulique Rentas, Stephania Cueva, Brittany Ortiz and Chantalle Caminero.

The students have been busy performing parts of the show at churches and for Local 146, Lawrence Firefighter’s Union to get the word out about their trip and get financial contributions. Fellow students are also chipping in from buying calendars at $20 which earns them prizes, to bringing in cans and bottles to redeem for cash. There is also a box in the high school office where students and staff can make donations with the note, “Every ‘wee’ bit helps” from Evangelista.

The students traveling to Scotland are using their other artistic talents to raise money by donating photographs and decorating chairs with stencils and artwork to sell at an auction.

Fermin, enjoys photography and donated a photograph of yellow berries with hint of red and photo shop it to look like a kaleidoscope.

“The composition is very eye catching and has great texture, which will capture people’s attention,” Fermin said.

“I want to go so badly and it’s just the money holding us back. We’re not backing out and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to make it possible. This is once in a lifetime opportunity that we can’t pass up,” Fermin said.

Darrach was working on her second chair, after finishing a chair painted in white with black and white zig zag lines on its seat. Even Evangelista decorated the seat of a chair to look like piano keys and the word, “Inspire” on its back rest. To finish it off, he was going to add sheet music.

Vasquez, who is taking ceramics classes is one of several students painting antique chairs also to put up for bid.

“This is a real creative way to raise funds,” said Vasquez.. “It’s also a chance to showcase our own work and show our other talents.”

Ortiz decided to decorate the seat of a stool with Audrey II, the blood sucking plant from the play, “Little Shop of Horrors” and the name of Audrey II’s victims written on the stool’s four legs.

“I felt restricted with a chair and I thought the stool was more suitable for the painting,” Ortiz said.

Caminero, who is part of the production crew, said the reason she was also decorating a chair was simple.

“I’m helping because it’s a team effort,” Caminero said. “I can also show my creative side.”

Superintendent Jeff Riley said for years the theater department has had to pay for everything on its own, with no financial support from the district. But for the first time this year, they were given a budget to run the program. Riley praised the staff members and students in the theater department for creating the original play, competing for and winning a coveted spot in the Fringe Festival, and raising the money to get there.

“They’re the perfect example of why the district and city needs to support its young artistic talent — which I see a ton of in Lawrence and I think this community will be there for them now, when they have this great opportunity,” Riley said.

How to donate: On line: http://fundly.com/pfa-high-school-goes-to-the-fringe-festival; Performance of Circle Game with dinner and talk back as well as silent auction featuring art, photography, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center; Performance of Circle Game, March 14 and 15, 7 p.m.;Improv show, March 22; Pasta buffet, upper cafeteria, April 5, 7 p.m.;Talent show, April 12, 7 p.m.; Recycling drive collection day, May 4, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., room B142; Open mic night, May 10, 7 p.m., room B142; Outdoor fair, May 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; "Little Shop of Horrors," June 6-8, 7 p.m. and June 8, 2 p.m.