Known as the largest arts and cultural festival in the world, Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a burst of sheer expression and color. Inspired artists and performers from all over the world travel there to share their work on an epic platform.

And this year…Milpitas High School’s (MHS) theater students have been selected to attend.

Eight of them, from grades 9 through 12, will be flying out to the festival this August to present their own unique show — one that they’ve been pouring precious time and energy into writing and creating. It’s called “5 Stages”, and it’s a form of variety program that’s centered around the 5 stages of grief.

Their teacher, show director Kaila Schwartz (who was honored in 2018 as Teacher of the Year in the Milpitas Unified School District, and recognized as a State Teacher of the Year candidate at the county level) has been there every step of the way to guide them through the process. She embodies a deep love and passion for the arts, which has no doubt rubbed off on her students.

“Theater has changed the life of my two children in so many ways,” said MHS Assistant Principal Jenn Hutchison, who has two daughters, grades 9 and 11, that will be going on the Scotland trip. “My oldest deals with depression and anxiety, which she has been open about…and being onstage has transformed her to being very outgoing, and being able to want to leave the country. Musical theater is the dream. She stretches herself because doing theater allows you so many great opportunities to explore not only your own emotions, but other people’s emotions, as well.”

In a YouTube video created by the students attending the upcoming festival, they speak of the joy of performing, as well as their excitement about travel and culture.

Through the year, they’ve been fundraising at varied locations, selling things like water bottles, donuts, and t-shirts. The cost of the entire trip costs $6,200 per student, which includes travel, room and board, and some performance costs. While there, the students will be privy to professional coaching sessions, and will have the opportunity to delve deeper into exploring things like lighting, makeup, and stagecraft.

In their video, some of the kids explain why raising funds is important. A couple of them speak of being raised by single parents and unable to afford the entire cost. Another student speaks of being raised by his 86-year-old grandma, who is his household’s sole provider.

So far, students have raised $2,657.35 out of a $50,000 target. And they still have about 5 more months of fundraising to go.

Tonight — Friday, March 1, at 7PM — in support of the kids’ fundraising efforts, ComedySportz (a group of improv performers from Downtown San Jose) will be performing at the Milpitas High School Theater.

In Whose Line is it Anyway? fashion, 2 teams will square off against each other, getting audience input to fuel improvised scenes.

All proceeds from this event will be donated to the students’ trip.

To make online donations to their cause, and to learn more, go to: Fringe Festival Donations

To learn more about the students, go to: 5 Stages

And don’t forget to check out tonight’s show…

 

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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