High school theatre group asked to perform in Scotland

By Eric Chima

A group of theatre students from Central High School in Champaign have been selected to perform at the Fringe Theatre Festival in Edinborough, Scotland, but money issues may keep the group on U.S soil.

The Central High School Theatre Drama Club recently became only the fifth school group from Illinois ever to be selected to perform at the international festival and the first from outside of the Chicago area, club treasurer John Deal said.

The group was selected to perform “The Laramie Project,” a play about the town of Laramie in the wake of the real-life murder of Matthew Shepard.

LaDonna Wilson, the director of theatre at Central, said it was a play many high school drama groups are not allowed to tackle. She called the fact that the drama club was allowed and encouraged to perform the play a tribute to the city and its open and accepting nature.

But making the trip is no expensive task. Transporting and housing will cost each of the club’s 28 members $5,000, Wilson said, and the Unit Four school board refused any aid.

Tuesday, the Central High Drama Club appeared before the Champaign City Council to ask for government and private assistance.

“We’re fortunate enough to have some students that can afford the trip, but others can’t even afford the deposit, much less the entire $5,000,” Wilson said.

The club has held several raffles and a benefit performance of “The Laramie Project” to raise funds for the trip, student Brendan Berg-Jacobson said. Wilson said the group was still well short of its $150,000 goal, but “on its way there.”

“The Laramie Project” addresses issues of both murder and sexual orientation. To prepare for the play, members of the club spent parts of their summer researching gay and lesbian rights issues and meeting with members of the University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered community, group member Alicia Prosser said.

John Monteith, junior in LAS and the publicity director for PRIDE, said he was pleased the group took the controversial step of performing the play.

“I’m extremely impressed that an issue like this would be tackled in a high school setting,” Monteith said. “To me, the fact that this is being approached in by high schoolers is pretty significant.”

The group was asked to speak to the council after Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart saw a performance of the play and heard the group needed assistance to get to Scotland. After they addressed the council, several council members and much of the audience gave them a standing ovation.

“We’ll do as much as we can to help you obtain your goals,” Schweighart said.