Poplar Bluff High School theater group to perform at festival in Europe

Sunday, June 1, 2008

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — Kilts will not be on the checklist of things to pack for a group of Poplar Bluff High School theater students heading to Scotland next year. They will, however, fill their suitcases with attire from past performances. The theater group was recently selected to participate in the Fringe Festival in July 2009.

The annual event, which began in 1947, takes place in London and Edinburgh, Scotland. As one of the largest art events in the world, the Fringe Festival will include acts from several countries performing at various venues.

The Poplar Bluff students became intrigued with the idea of going to the event after attending the International Thespian Society Festival in Lincoln, Neb., last year.

"The more we heard about it the more we wanted to go," drama teacher Jo Nell Seifert said. She wasted no time in applying for the trip but knew they might get cut.

"Most of the schools going are college prep or performing arts schools, so I didn't know if we'd have a chance," she said. But one phone call changed that.

"I got the call while at school and they said we have been chosen to go." Excitement rang throughout the school halls as word soon spread about the trip.

Darby Provance said she is ready to perform in front of hundreds, but also looking forward to gaining an understanding of the country.

"I'm excited to get to see another part of the world and the culture over there," said the soon-to-be sophomore.

About 15 students, along with chaperones, will be going from Poplar Bluff. But before packing, the students will need to raise money to get there. The trip costs about $500 per student.

"We will be using some of Kay Porter's money for the trip," Seifert said. "We couldn't do this without her help." Porter has afforded the drama team the opportunity to participate in many endeavors. Nearly 10 years ago, she donated $2.1 million for the construction of what is now the Kay M. Porter Theater on the Poplar Bluff High School campus. The late philanthropist also left $1 million for drama department expenses.

"We're going to hold fundraisers including selling wrapping paper and holding car washes" to help with the expenses, Seifert said. Extra performances of each upcoming play are also to be expected to help raise a few extra dollars.

Megan Richards, who will be a sophomore next school year, is another one of the students going on the trip.

"I've never been out of the country, so that will be exciting," she said. Megan is looking forward to performing in the play and hopefully taking some time out to shop.

The group is preparing to perform a play many of the students are familiar with.

"We're planning to perform 'Charlotte's Web,' three times in Scotland and once in England," Seifert said. The group performed the play in both the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years. But getting the stage set up exactly the same may pose a few new challenges for the high school group.

"We will be taking the costumes we used in the past performances, but we'll have to find props for the play once we arrive," Seifert said.

Last year, the festival consisted of 31,000 performers in 2,050 shows at 250 venues. About 1,600 high school theater groups applied and only the top 100 were chosen. In Missouri, 13 applied and three were chosen.

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