Press praises HWS Rembiko

Zoe Johnson ’08 and other members of the cast of the HWS Rembiko Project’s “Hamlet Q Jones: The Musical True Crime Story of a Very Depressed American Teenager…and his Extremely Dysfunctional Family” walked down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile handing out flyers about their show to passersby.

Johnson’s blonde hair stood out against the black clothing and thick eyeliner she said she wore in a gothic twist on Shakespeare’s classic. As she continued down the street, she met three girls dressed like herself among the crowd of performers and prospective audiences.

“I think we attracted the Goth kids of Edinburgh,” 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.

 “Hamlet Q Jones” was eventually named one of the top 30 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by the Scotsman, Edinburgh’s 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 (Schrode’s daughters) arrived in Edinburgh on July 31.

“Hamlet” was not the only show that received critical praise. Former orchestra leader Paul Ludden’s operatic take on Greek tragedy, “About Suffering They Were Never Wrong: The Trojan Women,” was the only HWS Rembiko show to ever receive a five star review from the Scotsman. It also received three other five star reviews.

“I never thought I would see the day when we got another five star review and it was like ‘Oh, okay,’” Schrode said.

At least four other shows received at least one four star review from one of Edinburgh’s numerous publications, including Schrode’s play “The English Teacher.” 

The play, which illuminates the interactions between teachers and students in an all girls’ 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 “permanently cancelled” and revived by Schrode at the beginning of last year. Schrode did scale down the program in some respects.

“I was really worried about it,” Schrode said. “It’s hard to say why things came together.”

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 ’08, whose musical “Ticket to the Top: A Rock Opera of Corporate Proportions” was performed, attended the program in 2005 and recognized the differences.

“This year was much tighter around the edges,” he said.

“Ticket to the Top” received mixed reviews, and yet Moskatel said he was content with the run. One review called him a “future Broadway writer,” Moskatel said. While Schrode praised certain students, calling Kurt Kanazawa ’07, who starred as Hamlet, “breathtakingly good,” he also acknowledged the opportunity the program gives younger students.

Elana Fruchtman ’10 unexpectedly received the role of Alice in John Walch’s play “The Elements of Style” after Sammi Wyman ’07 dropped out. Drama teacher Ted Walch directed his nephew’s play and informed Fruchtman she had received the part.

“It was a very exciting moment,” she said. “I was shocked.”

Moskatel also said he was proud of his accomplishment.

“After the last production I realized I’m 17, and I just had a show on the Fringe,” he said.