By Esther Zuckerman
Zoe Johnson â08 and other members of the cast of the HWS Rembiko Projectâs âHamlet Q Jones: The Musical True Crime Story of a Very Depressed American Teenagerâ¦and his Extremely Dysfunctional Familyâ walked down Edinburghâs Royal Mile handing out flyers about their show to passersby.
Johnsonâs blonde hair stood out against the black clothing and thick eyeliner she said she wore in a gothic twist on Shakespeareâs classic. As she continued down the street, she met three girls dressed like herself among the crowd of performers and prospective audiences.
âI think we attracted the Goth kids of Edinburgh,â she said.
Johnson invited them to see her show, explaining how the show incorporated classic rock music into the play. They came. And they came again, the second time with friends. And they came a third time.
Â âHamlet Q Jonesâ was eventually named one of the top 30 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by the Scotsman, Edinburghâs largest daily paper, and was one of the ten shows brought to one of the largest festivals in the world by the HWS Rembiko project run by English teacher Eric Schrode.
After rehearsing for three weeks in Los Angeles, the 73 students, 24 faculty members and two toddlers (Schrodeâs daughters) arrived in Edinburgh on July 31.
âHamletâ was not the only show that received critical praise. Former orchestra leader Paul Luddenâs operatic take on Greek tragedy, âAbout Suffering They Were Never Wrong: The Trojan Women,â was the only HWS Rembiko show to ever receive a five star review from the Scotsman. It also received three other five star reviews.
âI never thought I would see the day when we got another five star review and it was like âOh, okay,ââ Schrode said.
At least four other shows received at least one four star review from one of Edinburghâs numerous publications, including Schrodeâs play âThe English Teacher.âÂ
The play, which illuminates the interactions between teachers and students in an all girlsâ school in Philadelphia in 1974, was purchased by Next Generation Publications and optioned to be turned into a movie. Schrode is currently working on the screenplay.
Richard Demarco, one of the founders of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, came to see the play and invited the director, Jeremy Guskin, and four of the cast members including Johnson to participate in a panel he was hosting about the history of the Fringe.
The HWS Rembiko was âpermanently cancelledâ and revived by Schrode at the beginning of last year. Schrode did scale down the program in some respects.
âI was really worried about it,â Schrode said. âItâs hard to say why things came together.â
HWS Rembiko eliminated a production that involved all students and faculty, Schrode said. In addition to this, six musical directors replaced two, and there were seven more faculty members and two more junior chaperones.
Leon Moskatel â08, whose musical âTicket to the Top: A Rock Opera of Corporate Proportionsâ was performed, attended the program in 2005 and recognized the differences.
âThis year was much tighter around the edges,â he said.
âTicket to the Topâ received mixed reviews, and yet Moskatel said he was content with the run. One review called him a âfuture Broadway writer,â Moskatel said. While Schrode praised certain students, calling Kurt Kanazawa â07, who starred as Hamlet, âbreathtakingly good,â he also acknowledged the opportunity the program gives younger students.
Elana Fruchtman â10 unexpectedly received the role of Alice in John Walchâs play âThe Elements of Styleâ after Sammi Wyman â07 dropped out. Drama teacher Ted Walch directed his nephewâs play and informed Fruchtman she had received the part.
âIt was a very exciting moment,â she said. âI was shocked.â
Moskatel also said he was proud of his accomplishment.
âAfter the last production I realized Iâm 17, and I just had a show on the Fringe,â he said.