In August, Skyline High School – Oakland‘s drama students and their teacher/director Awele Makeba boarded a 7:00 AM flight for the United Kingdom. They spent two weeks in London and Edinburgh, Scotland, performing, attending theater workshops and engaging with other performers and spectators from around the world. For the students, it was an experience of a lifetime.
“It is a teacher’s dream for her students’ learning experiences to extend beyond the four walls of the classroom into the community and to have real-world application and impact that sends them on a journey of self-discovery,” said Ms. Makeba.
“Leaving the country to fly to the biggest theater festival in the world was a dream come true,” said junior Demetri Freeman-Tubby, who played the role of Mr. Charles in Skyline’s production of “Prospect High: Brooklyn.”
Skyline, along with more than forty other U.S. high schools, took part in the American High School Theater Festival (AHSTF) at The Fringe in Scotland during the first two weeks of the month-long festival. The AHSTF is a two-week experience where students participated in educational workshops at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London and The Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. They performed their production in their assigned venue and on The Royal Mile, worked with students from other high schools, had the opportunity to see many hours of all genres of theater and dance and enjoyed sightseeing in both cities.
“One of my favorite experiences was in London where I was able to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theater,” said Demetri. “I got to look into the history of Shakespeare and his work, but most importantly who Shakespeare was as an artist, poet, and human being.”
The ensemble cast for Prospect High: Brooklyn in Edinburgh started as a group of eight, but by the time they boarded the plane for the festival only five actors made the trip which left several roles to be reassigned and learned before their first performance five days after arriving in the UK.
“Adding three additional scenes to the ones I was already performing with such a short time to learn them was a little scary at first,” said Avelina Rivezzo-Weber, a sophomore and youngest member of the cast. “But once we had our first performance and we got a standing ovation, I knew I would only make the role of Bria better each time.”
The students and Ms. Makeba were not going to let adversity get in their way of fully embracing this chance of a lifetime opportunity. By the time they returned to Oakland on August 11, they had performed Prospect High: Brooklyn four times, performed on the famous “Royal Mile” twice including in a flash mob to a song from the musical Hamilton, participated in three professional workshops, attended more than 25 performances at The Fringe plus the musical “An American in Paris” in the West End of London, spoke with college recruiters at a college fair sponsored by AHSTF, and made memories that will last a lifetime.
When asked about the experience, Ms. Makeba said, “My students were not only cultural ambassadors performing on the world stage they were students of theatre experiencing master classes at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and The Lyceum Theatre. They experienced the transformative power of theatre by witnessing provocative and potent theatre by artists from around the world, they met many of these artists and learned about their educational path that guided them in their development and they received gems of wisdom to guide them.”
Skyline High School and the Drama Dept. thank everyone who donated to the fundraising effort. Without their support and generosity, this experience would not have been possible.