For over a year, the Opening Knight Players from have been holding fundraisers to help pay for the trip to Edinburgh, Scotland for the Fringe Festival. Well, the time that they have been working for is finally here.
On Friday night, the group will perform the show it will be doing in Scotland, , will have a sendoff picnic on Saturday, and will be hopping on a plane bound for Scotland.
“It’s unbelievable to be part of this,” said OKP member Hannah Kogut. “The excitement has just been getting more and more tangible as the trip gets closer. I just can’t believe we’re about to go.”
In Scotland, OKP members will perform in the world’s largest and most prestigious arts festival as part of the American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF).
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“Two-thousand theater companies come to Scotland every August for three weeks,” English teacher and OKP advisor William Prenetta told Patch last summer. He said the group will first travel to London to get used to the time change and spend three days there, visiting places such as Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Then they will travel to Scotland by train and spend 10 days there, performing four times in Scotland theaters.
Long recognized for their entertaining and innovative productions, OKP was selected by the AHSTF Board of Advisors to represent the United States as part of the 2012 AHSTF program. The board reviews all completed applications and recommendations. Less than five percent of nominated schools are selected to participate.
OKP member Josh Feldman said that this past year has been crazy getting ready for the trip, noting all of the fundraising events and extra productions the group has done.
“It seems like ages ago that we first started getting ready,” he said. “Looking back, its hard to believe how much we did – from going door-to-door and asking people for a dollar to donate, or putting on , which Mr. Prenetta said was the biggest show he’s ever done. It’s mind-boggling how much we accomplished this year when I think about it. It’s been a lot of hard, tiring work, but I’ve made so many memories this year just in the process of going to Scotland and we’re not even there yet.”
Alayna Graziani, a 2009 graduate, has been stage managing and designing the lights for the production and will be going on the trip. She said that the Fringe Festival is about the international community coming together to create and enjoy works of art.
“The OKP is embodying that wholeheartedly through the ensemble work that they are doing and through the fun that they are having onstage,” she said. “My class was the first class from Ellington to be asked to go to the . After that, the OKP has been to NEDFs twice and is now going to the Edinburgh Fringe. For me, I just can’t believe that the OKP is doing this. It’s so awesome to be a part of something that has grown this big and to be able to represent Ellington on an international stage. We have all put a lot of time and effort into this show, and it is going to be fantastic.”
The acting, and the opportunity, are not the only things the students have enjoyed about this process.
“Many of the kids in the group I know simply because I keep showing up at OKP events, or they’re my brother’s friends,” Graziani said. “It’s been interesting to me to get to know them better. It’s also nice to be able to give back to an organization that gave me so much.”
For Feldman, he considers himself lucky to be part of this group.
“Not just because I want to become a professional actor, and being part of such a prolific high school drama program gives me the experience I need to learn and eventually succeed, but because I've made so many friendships and memories during the process,” he said.
Kogut added, “I’m an archer, so the one thing I miss out on is that friendly loving family atmosphere. Archery’s a very individual sport, so I love theater for that family feeling we get. And that bond has just grown so much since we found out we were going to Scotland. Between fundraising together and rehearsing together for hours upon hours, we really are a family.”
If you would like to see the group before it heads off, the Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon production, which has been described by cast members as “very goofy,” and “not our normal style,” will take place in the Ellington High School auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are $5.