Chaparral theater troupe takes student production to Scotland

The Chaparral High School theater troupe will perform in Scotland in August. Pictured in center is Gianna Agostinelli and Eric Flayton. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Twenty-one Chaparral High School students are packing their costumes, sets, musical instruments and natural talent to represent Arizona at the American High School Theatre Festival in Scotland.

The American High School Theatre Festival runs in conjunction with the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Chaparral’s award-winning theater department is performing their production of Suzan Zeder’s “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” a show they performed for the local Scottsdale audience in January.

The invitation-only event allows high school theater students from all over the United States and Canada to share their talents in a series of touring shows, according to a press release.

Chaparral will have two separate casts performing “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” a folktale that centers on a young boy who, with help from his loyal dog and mother, battles the legendary hairy man. This is the fourth time Chaparral has been nominated, applied and chosen to perform at the Fringe; previous years were 1998, 2011 and 2014.

The Chaparral theater troupe will leave for London, England on Saturday, July 29, where they will spend two days touring and participating in a workshop at the Old Globe Theatre, before heading to Edinburgh, Scotland for their shows.

During the late afternoon on Wednesday, July 26, the cast ran through their final dress rehearsal inside the Black Box Theater at Chaparral High, 6935 E. Gold Dust Ave. Everything from lighting, music, production value and theater size are taken into consideration while preparing for a major traveling show, Director Ed Como says.

“The way the Fringe Festival works is every production that’s there has a two-hour slot and you have roughly 15 minutes to set up, 90 minutes to perform, and then 15 to strike,” Mr. Como explained in a July 26 interview.

“So because of that you have to think a little bit more creatively, what you’re going to do staging wise.”

The student production of “Wiley and the Hairy Man” uses screens and shadows in their performance. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

While Mr. Como has taken students to the festival in the past, this will be the first time for this cohort.

“We’ve been working on this play for the better part of 10 months. We started in October, kind of just playing around with it, seeing how to do it,” Mr. Como says, calling their approach improvisational.

“Normally I have a better idea of what I want, but for this one I was like ‘lets see what happens.’”

The energy inside the Black Box Theater was electric, as 20 students set up their minimalistic stage in a matter of minutes. While some students have been involved in theater since a young age, and others are new to the profession, many shared one common theme: passion.

Theater president Eric Flayton says he is both excited and nervous to be performing in a foreign country.

“It’s my first theater trip,” Mr. Flayton, who plays a lead role as Wiley, explained on July 26. “I just really realized that right now — it’s the first time I’m going somewhere and performing.”

Although he was involved in community theater as a young child, Mr. Flayton says when he started as a freshman at Chaparral, he became much more involved.

“In ninth grade it really picked up and I really started doing a lot more shows and stuff,” he said. “The people — there’s a really special group of people here — and I knew that from my first day here.”

Gianna Agostinelli, who plays the role of Dog, was first involved in choir before joining theater.

“It’s always been an outlet for me to explore myself and the world around me in a creative environment,” Miss Agostinelli says. “My sister did theater here as well, she’s four years older than me and in college now. It’s kind of cool, imaging her here — we never got to be in high school together so I feel connected to her somehow.”

Kylie Wyer, who also plays the role of Wiley, says performing in front of a worldwide audience is one aspect of the trip she’s looking forward to.

“Every thespian from different parts of the world is going to be there, so I think it will be really cool to be able to perform in front of them, because I never thought I’d have this opportunity,” Miss Wyer said.

To help the student theater troupe with left-over costs visit their GoFundMe site at: https://www.gofundme.com/chaparral-scotland-2017-trip.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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