Wlde Lake High School drama students will be singing and dancing at the world's largest arts festival in August, the only school in Maryland -- and one of a dozen nationwide -- selected for the event.
The 48-student cast and crew will be performing "Smile" -- this year's fall musical -- in Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of the Scottish capital's annual arts festival.
"It's an amazing opportunity to perform in front of so many people and to see all of the other performances," said drama club president and senior Michelle Dvoskin, 17, who's portraying Miss Sacramento in the musical about a California beauty pageant. "I'm so excited that we got picked to go. I can't wait."
Wilde Lake actually will be performing in Edinburgh's "Fringe Festival" rather than on the main stage, but none of the students takes that as a slight.
Begun 50 years ago as a sideshow to the Edinburgh's main festival, the Fringe Festival now attracts more than 1,000 shows from all over the world. It's considered one of the most prestigious performance opportunities for amateur groups.
More than 1.5 million people came to Edinburgh in August for the festival's three weeks, and different shows are performed 24 hours a day.
Next August will be only the second year that U.S. high schools were invited to the Fringe Festival. The dozen high schools were selected by a panel of college theater professors and the Charlottesville, Va.-based American High School Theatre Festival.
"We reviewed applications from more than 130 schools that had earned top awards either in state or regional festivals," said Sheri Raymond, chairwoman of the national theater group. "Every school had really talented students and teachers, and we think we've selected 12 of the best."
All the pupils will spend several days touring London before traveling to Edinburgh for their performances. Ms. Raymond said the American high-school theater group likely will rent a 150-seat Gothic church for its plays.
For Wilde Lake's drama students, being picked to perform in Edinburgh is just the beginning of a full year of intense work.
Rehearsals are under way for the Nov. 16-18 performance of "Smile" at Wilde Lake's temporary home at River Hill High School on Route 108. The musical was written by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman as an adaptation from a 1975 movie of the same name.
"I'm spending every free moment I have getting ready," said senior Jamequa Redmond, 17. As Miss Merced, Jamequa will perform one of the most difficult stunts in the play -- twirling a flaming baton.
"My worst fear is tossing the baton and it lands on our wooden stage, burning down the theater. Or even worse, burning down the theater in Edinburgh," she said.
After next month's performance, the students will set the musical aside until summer, when they'll resume rehearsing for their four shows in Edinburgh.
But performing the play likely will be the easy part, said Wilde Lake drama teacher Tracy Adler. Preparing for more than five dozen students and chaperons to travel to Edinburgh -- and meeting a $100,000 fund-raising target -- will be much more challenging.
"We really want to get the whole community involved in supporting this trip, from corporations to individuals," Ms. Adler said. "We hope we'll have a send-off show for our supporters in August just before we leave."
Students already have begun the fund-raising drive, and they plan to try everything from selling T-shirts and cheesecakes to holding carwashes. "But bake sales alone aren't going to raise $100,000," Ms. Adler said. "We'll need corporate support."
Many students have taken jobs to raise money to pay for the trip. The national theater group estimates costs of $3,100 per person, but the actual cost to each student will depend upon how much money the school raises.
"I'm working every night, double shifts, anything I can to earn money for the trip," said senior Michael Caloia, 17, who buses tables at Toby's Dinner Theatre and portrays the husband of the pageant organizer in the musical. "It's hard to find the time with rehearsals and everything, but it's going to be worth it."