BG Drama Club headed to Scotland


You’d better make sure to catch the winter theater performance of Almost Maine at Battle Ground High School in February, because, the next performance of the show will be at the 23rd American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF) in Edinburgh, Scotland in August of 2017.  

Battle Ground High School Drama Club has been nominated and selected for the acclaimed international event, which is part of the world’s largest arts festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe! The festival encompasses over 40,000 performers in 3,500 performances at 315 venues. 

Participation in AHSTF is highly selective, said Drama Club coach Stephan Henry, known as Cash to his students. Nearly 3,000 high schools are nominated by a professional or academic in the theater world. Candidates complete a 15-page application, including photos, reviews, faculty recommendations, and the drama program philosophy. Finally, only 40 of the top schools are chosen to participate. 

Students will first spend two days in London, where they will take in a West End Theatre performance, attend a workshop at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and visit famous sites.  

For the next 10 days, they will be immersed in the international world of theater in Edinburgh; days packed with rehearsals, performances, workshops and excursions. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe! transforms Scotland’s capital, as every theater, museum, hotel, sports center and pub hosts an array of international performers. 

The festival promises to be “one of the greatest educational experiences these kids will ever have,” emphasized Henry. “Every kid who goes will have their life changed in amazing and positive ways.” 

The BGHS Drama Club has put in some serious time to reach this level of accomplishment. It’s not uncommon for students to spend 16-, 17-, even 18-hour days at school, said Henry.  

Putting on a theater production requires a wide range of talent both on and off the stage, and Drama Club members have each found their niche. 

Nicole Kehoe, age 17, said she wasn’t seeking the limelight. In fact, she backed out of the first audition she had planned to attend, but the second time around she found her place. 

“I fell in love with crew,” she said. 

Kehoe will be the stage manager for the performance in Scotland. 

Jake Harvison, age 16, has been involved in all of the productions during his high school years, both on and off the stage, but he gravitates toward playing “mean” characters, he said. 

“Different kinds of mean,” he laughed. “One was a tough guy, one was very clever.” 

When 16-year-old Thomas Rismoen was assigned to a drama class in the eighth grade, he said, “I thought, this is gonna suck. I began to like it a lot.” 

Cassidy MacAdam, age 16, began her drama experience even earlier, when her mom “forced” her to participate in the second grade. 

“I had the worst stage fright ever,” she said. “It has been really fulfilling for me,” said MacAdam. 

Beyond official roles on and off the stage, there is more that keeps students coming back. They all tell the same story — of finding a place where they belong, where they are accepted, a place that is like the best a family can offer. 

“All the members are so different, a lot of different personalities,” said club president Skyler Dunfeld, age 16. “It’s phenomenal that we are able to come together and accept each other exactly as we are.” 

The club motto states, “First and foremost, we are a family.” A small crowd of budding thespians emphatically nod their assent.  

Trinity Weaver, 15, seemed to tell some version of everyone’s story with her own. 

“When I was a kid I didn’t have a way to make friends,” she said. “I moved a lot, and I wasn’t a popular kid. I came to Battle Ground and didn’t know if kids would accept me. I came here and saw the community we had, and fell in love instantly. I used to be really quiet. Coming here showed me I have a voice.” 

Other students echoed the trust and support they experience, both in each other and the trust placed in them by Henry. His students said he gives them hope they can do it, he creates an environment to discover the love of performance, and he pushes them to do their best. 

Henry compares these drama students to his prior 30 years of experience in theater. 

“The work they put in, the effort, the product they deliver, is worlds better than professional productions I’ve been involved in,” he said. “They have more professional behavior than many professionals. They inspire me daily to do better. And that’s what makes my job the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had.”  

The opportunity to perform in Scotland will have benefits beyond the trip itself, said Henry. Students will bring back their stories and their videos. They’ll earn recognition for Battle Ground in an international arena. And they will continue to grow as a club, and be a force in the community for theater. 

Between 20 and 25 students hope to participate in the festival in Edinburgh. The trip will cost $7,000 per student, of which $5,000 will be contributed by each student and $2,000 per student will be raised by the Drama Club. 

Students are tackling the challenge in different ways. Sammy Carroll, 16, has created a Go Fund Me account and brought her unneeded clothing to a resale shop. Dunfeld saved her money from summer jobs. Harvison works at the ticket booth for school football games. 

The Drama Club is accepting donations to help fund participation in the theater festival. 

“By donating, people have a part in ownership of seeing Battle Ground on an international stage,” said Henry. 

Donations can be submitted to the Associated Student Body office at Battle Ground High School. 

“The work they put in is inspiring beyond belief, and I hope the community will get behind them,” said Henry. “It will be incredible for the community to see Battle Ground on the international stage. I think we’re ready for that.”