Preparing for Scotland 01-28-2011

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West Port students get donations for theater trip

By Michel Northsea

The Oak Run Little Theatre group was so impressed with the recent performance of Hairspray at the Marion County Center for the Arts they broke out the checkbook.

The students in “Hairspray” are part of West Port High School’s magnet arts programs. They will use the $500 donation for their trip to Scotland to perform in the prestigious 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

After seeing the November play at West Port High School, Frank Porterfield, president of the theatre group, send the students and drama teacher Janet Shelley a note expressing their admiration for the great job the cast had done.

Shelley called Porterfield to thank him for the kind note. In the course of the conversation she mentioned the invitation to the festival in Scotland.

Porterfield broached the subject with the Oak Run group and it was decided to send the donation.

“We asked the 82 members if they were agreeable to making a donation to help the kids. Our Board had suggested $500 and the members agreed overwhelmingly,” he said.

In addition Porterfield encouraged his group to make individual donations to help raise the necessary $90,000.

“The fact that their Drama Club has been chosen as one of 48 out of 2,000 nominated schools to perform at the 2011 Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland is quite an honor for our community, the school and the State of Florida,” Porterfield said.

The drama program was nominated for the festival by Earl Weaver, the department chair of the musical theatre department at the University of Central Florida, and Mary Britt, the executive director of the Ocala Civic Theatre.

In making their final decision judges, all theatre professionals, reviewed the last three years’ work, including the curriculum Shelley teaches, the shows the drama department has produced, news articles and correspondence and photographs of students’ work, Shelley said.

At the festival the students will perform four times. Shelley is waiting for performance rights for the play “Theophilus North” by Thornton Wilder to showcase at the festival.

To raise the funds for the trip the students have made individual donations, sought donations from people and family they know, held fundraising events - including a Howling at the Moon program for dogs – and sold discount cards. The discounts cards are $10 each and allow discounts at 36 different businesses in the area; many are places to eat.

Those efforts have raised half of the necessary funds for the two-week trip. Working with a group that specializes in student travel, the drama students have, so far, been able to make all the necessary installments.

As the trip nears, those installment payments run in the range of $14,000 now instead of several thousands as they were in the early planning for the trip.

Donations are appreciated for the August trip and may be mailed to West Port High School, Drama Department, 3733 S.W. 80th Ave., Ocala, Fl., 34481.  For information on getting a discount card, call the school at 291-4000.

“I keep praying that people will see what a great opportunity this is for my students and come forward to help us make it happen,” Shelley said.