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    • HDA takes in the view at the summit of Arthur’s Seat.

    • The group poses for a picture with actor Chris Grace while in line for a show.

Back to the Fringe: HDA Takes on Scotland

Shriya Sakalkale ’24 Lead Arts Editor Grace Laliberte ’24
This past August, the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA) had the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland. The trip, which was centered around Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, the world’s largest performance arts festival, allowed Hilltoppers to take in a multitude of productions and simultaneously experience the city’s rich artistic community.

This past August, the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA) had the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland. The trip, which was centered around Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, the world’s largest performance arts festival, allowed Hilltoppers to take in a multitude of productions and simultaneously experience the city’s rich artistic community.

From improvisational musicals to a South-African dance circus, the group fully immersed themselves in the Fringe’s diverse theatrical offerings, and found themselves leaving with quite a few favorites. Top on Drama
Teacher Hope Hartup’s list was a one-woman show titled “A Funeral for a Friend Who is Still Alive,” which in her
own words was “a beautiful tale of how world events can separate us from people before we ever thought we could lose them, and what we lose in the process.” Hartup also remembered her experience getting to meet Kasen Tsui, the star of the show, and shared this touching moment: “She found our small group outside and thanked us for coming. Then, with tears in her eyes, she asked if we would give her a group hug and we did. It was such a validating gesture of the unique relationship between performer and audience.”

Beyla Ridky ’24 shared her experience watching “Stuntman,” a show that “explor[ed] memory and masculinity through movement and vignettes.” Ridky enjoyed how “it was set up like a conversation between two people that the audience was privy to, rather than a show for the audience.” But most of all, Ridky was left impressed by how “open and honest” the shows were, and she admits: “I couldn’t see them performed with different people, which made it a very special experience.”

Asher Joseph ’25 was left amazed by “Trainspotting Live!,” a stage adaptation of the 1996 film starring Ewan McGregor. Having not seen the film, Joseph admitted that “I had no idea what I was in for.” He added: “I first
realized that this show would be a completely different experience when the venue’s employees were stationed
outside of the doors with earplugs and a strict no-phone policy, emulating the stoicism of a bouncer at a nightclub. Rows of bleachers were divided by a stage running the  length of the room, resembling Hopkins’ recent production of ‘Macbeth,’ as EDM blasted over loudspeakers, vibrant strobe lights searched the floor, and the cast ushered audience members to their seats.” In the end, Joseph felt “immersed in the show’s universe...The acting was phenomenal, [and] the characters were engaging and versatile.”

Apart from the shows themselves, the group was awestruck by the distinctive culture and community surrounding the Fringe. Ridky admired the creative diversity of the Fringe, and she appreciated how “the
people at the Fringe...all are coming with open minds and curiosity. People from everywhere bring talents and ideas without trying to fit a mold.” Calderone emphasized how valuable it is that, “our kids are exposed to countless varieties of theater and cultures that can no doubt broaden their understanding of theater and
their global experience.” Neilson was touched by the theater community she found during the Fringe, as she recalled, “Everyone is just so happy to be there and was connected by their love of theater! Everyone you’d meet would be asking for show recommendations and sharing their favorites with you. You’d have these little conversations about the festival with complete strangers, and the conversations would always end with ‘Have a good Fringe!’ or ‘Enjoy your Fringe!’ which I think is really special.”

Another incredible aspect of the Fringe for Calderone is the ease with which the group was able to connect with and communicate with the performers. He said, “When shows are over, the performers are often outside of the venue available to chat with our students as peer creators! Our kids don’t just gush over how great they thought the show was or try to snag an autograph or selfie; they’re talking about the creative process, asking about what choices were made, and how the piece formed. You really can’t get that anywhere else.” The enriching experience the Fringe’s environment provides is incredibly valuable to HDA kids. Calderone said, “What makes the Fringe unique ... is that it puts theater front-and-center for an entire month. Our kids, who love theater, get to see dedicated professionals from around the world creating the art that means so much to them.”

Though the group came to experience Edinburgh’s Fringe, they found themselves surrounded by the city’s artistic and cultural community as well. While the Fringe was in full throttle, Edinburgh also played host to their annual International Festival, which features dance, theater, opera, and music performances from all over the world. Rose Robertson ’24 talked about a concert the group attended as a part of the International Festival. She remarked upon how “deeply moving” the experience was, with “more than 300 people gathered on stage.” She elaborated: “There were musical groups from all over the world working on one song together, each bringing their own style and culture, which was really amazing to see.” Robertson also shared how the group
bonded during the concert as she added, “Some of our group got up and danced during light-hearted portions, and there was a Scottish toddler who was really into it, tearing up the center aisle as the music played.”

Another highlight of the trip was when the group went Ceilidh dancing, a type of Scottish-country dancing. Ridky said, “It was like Scottish line dancing, and I enjoyed it because I got to spend time with the others on the trip in a very different way than we’d been doing. It also felt like a fun way to do something [native] to Scotland, learn something new, and hear some traditional music.” The dancing was one of Hartup’s favorite memories from the trip and she recalls, “Watching everyone dance to traditional Scottish reels was memorable.”

But most of all, members of the group enjoyed the time they got to bond and make memories while exploring their passion for theater. Recent graduate Neilson, expressed her gratitude for the connections she continued
to forge on the trip: “I got to strengthen friendships and even create new ones all while spending time in the beautiful city that is Edinburgh.” Calderone enjoyed “hearing the HDA kids chatting as we move[d] from show to show,” and he loved how “there’s an energy and excitement about the show we just saw, or the simple awe of being in such a vibrant city.” Hartup reiterated Neilson and Calderone’s sentiments: “The camaraderie the group developed as they made connections with each other and pursued their interests was joyful and a pleasure to see.”
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Rose Robertson

Managing Editor 
Hanna Jennings

Sophie Denny
Eli Ratner
Anya Mahajan
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Shriya Sakalkale
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