Gannon University Student Productions Wins Raves at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Posted: September 21, 2017
When a Gannon University contingent of 11 students and faculty
arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland for the International Collegiate
Theatre Festival (ICTF) in August, they expected a positive
response to the work they brought, APE/ESSENCE, based on Aldous
Huxley dystopic 1948 novel, "Ape and Essence," would be received
warmly. Yet even this confident group wasn't prepared for the rave
review that appeared in the British Theatre Guide, an independent
website on British theatre.
Reviewer Graeme Strachan wrote of the production, "The players
lope and whoop, while flinging themselves around the stage in
energetic glee, bedecked in Mad Max-like war paint, khaki clothes
and furs, managing to milk every drop of humour out of the
ridiculousness of the situation, while allowing the uncomfortable
undercurrent of violence and horror to bubble just below the
surface, erupting periodically." He added, "Indeed, the tragedy of
this show is that it will only appear for a mere 4 showings, each
of which is at a different time of day-a state of affairs that will
probably ensure it isn't seen by nearly enough Fringe patrons."
This was high praise for the production that originated at
Gannon University's Schuster Theatre during the past season, a
production and a work that was largely shaped by the student actors
themselves from an adaptation written by Rev. Shawn Clerkin,
associate professor of theatre.
"This is the first time that we've created a show that the
students have written, created and dug out with their nails to
create," said assistant professor Alaina Manchester, who co-wrote
and directed the production. "I give suggestions with timing and
things like that, but the ideas were the students'. They want these
big ideas, and I'd say, 'Great! Now write it."
Write it they did, and rehearsed the show in an unusually long
incubation period after "APE/ESSENCE's" 10-performance run at the
Schuster Theatre in April. "We had been working on this for more
than a year for this audience," Manchester said of the Edinburgh
festival. We wanted to prove to students that their instincts are
correct and the risk they take at rehearsals that seemed fruitless
at the time, mean something in front of an audience that might be
different from the one you encountered at home.
The Edinburgh trip was the third for a Schuster Theatre troupe.
Gannon was also represented at the 2011 and 2014 ICTF gatherings,
which are part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, widely believed to
be largest arts festival in the world spanning 25 days with 53,232
performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues.
"From a producer and department chair's point of
view, the idea that our students are performing on a world stage
and they in turn get to see other people's works is thrilling and
gratifying," Clerkin said. "When they come back, our students start
writing plays and they produce their work with more fervor. From
our perspective, on a resume when we say we've produced a show at
ICTF, it burnishes our reputation. It's huge."