When a student has a unique gift, a strong work ethic, and an unbridled passion for their craft, it must be nurtured by their community. Highland Park High School’s Scots Theatre Department is ripe with talented and enthusiastic young actors, and their love for the theatre is evident when they grace the stage. In fact, they shine so brightly that they have been invited- for the second time- to represent Kansas at the American High School Theatre Festival in Scotland.
In 2012, the Scots Theatre troupe was thrilled to be invited to the festival in Edinburgh to show off their acting chops in an original, autobiographical piece entitled “You Don’t Know Me. Scott Kickhaefer, Scots Theatre director, says “Our calling card was the integrity of the piece, (because) it was really about us. We were giving the people in Scotland, as well as the people in north east Kansas, a real glimpse into Highland Park High School students, so it was a very personal piece.”
It is very unusual to be invited back for a second time, but the gifted drama students at Highland Park have managed to pull off this remarkable feat. They are in the midst of planning their second trip, which will take place this August and will coincide with the world’s largest performing arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Fringe Festival includes almost 22,000 performers in over 2,500 events that will entertain about one million visitors. It is truly a remarkable opportunity for the students to take part in, and it is a great honor to be selected to attend again.
This year, the students wanted to take a different approach to the piece they’re taking to Edinburgh. However, they still wanted to do something original, so they commissioned Darren Canady, head of playwriting at the University of Kansas and former Topeka High School student, to write a play just for them. Darren is working with the students to gain insights into the kids’ personalities to write the play. He wanted to find out who they were and what kind of theatre they wanted to perform.
With 85% of Highland Park High School’s students on free/reduced lunch plans, a trip like this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. In fact, it is safe to say that this kind of excursion would be unattainable for even middle and upper-middle class families. But the opportunity to travel to a country on the other side of the planet, to indulge in the artistic and creative process, and to meet other like-minded students from all over the world, is sure to leave a deep impression on these young people, despite the trip’s high price tag.
Seven students- none of whom attended the festival in 2012- and three adults, including Scott Kickhaefer, are hoping to make the trip. The cost is an understandable burden, at $6,500 per person, or $65,000 total, and will require many months of planning to overcome. According to Kickhaefer, “We couldn’t have gone in 2012 without the people of Topeka, without the community providing such support, not only monetarily, but the fellowship they showed the kids. It showed (the kids) that just because you’re living on the east side doesn’t mean that we all don’t care about you.” Corey Jackson, a senior at Highland Park High School, explains the work that is going into the planning of the trip. “Every day we’re working on our trip… fundraising, meeting with (Darren Canady)… doing something Scotland-related. We’re working really hard to get there.”
Kickhaefer, Jackson and the rest of the Scots Theatre team are hoping their community will come through for them again this year. “We’re looking for local businesses that want to partner with us for a tax-deductible fundraiser. Anything they can do: a fundraiser night, donate supplies to help us fundraise, or if you just want to donate, we will be very glad to work with you,” said Jackson.
If you’re interested in helping these talented young people embark on what is sure to be an amazing journey, visit the “Send the Scots 2 Scotland- Take II” Facebook page. We will also be posting fundraiser information regularly, so be on the lookout for those updates. Let’s help our TPS Scots Theatre Department achieve their dream!