Vary rarely do shows written by Harvard students leave the confines of Cambridge, but this summer two Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club shows, “The House of Shadows”—written by Joshua R. McTaggart ’13—and “Nine-Sided Box”—created by Adriana I. Colón ’13 and Margaret C. Kerr ’13—will be traveling to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, the largest arts festival in the world, to perform their plays in front of hundreds of people. The month-long festival allows actors, writers, and directors from all over the world to showcase their talents, and has been a historically significant launch pad for big names to get their first start. This year will be the first time the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club sends any work to Edinburgh, and for both shows the decision to make the journey acted as the catalyst for the productions themselves.
“It was something I’ve wanted to do since high school,” says Kerr. Kerr is not the only person who has wanted to bring a Harvard show the the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “It was something that HRDC had been trying to do for years and years but not been able to work up the funding to do so.” In fact, even though the shows have the support of the HRDC, they have to raise their own funds, are collecting donations at www.glasselevatortheatre.com and www.ninesidedbox.com. After deciding to set forth, Kerr and Colón began toying around with different concepts, and these musing turned into “Box.”
The actors in the show improvise within a previously arranged structure. Members of the cast acknowledge that it will be interesting to see how the dynamic between characters changes throughout the course of the 25-show festival. “One of the amazing things about theater is that the audience very much informs the structure of a performance; the dynamic will change significantly,” says Kerr, who also acts in the show. “In improvisation it can be difficult to know what the other person will do next. By the end of the show, I may be able to guess what’s getting out of her mouth before she says it.”
McTaggart also acknowledges the challenges of performing so intensely for so long. “I hope by the end of the process we don’t kill each other,” he jokes. “There’ll be performances that we’ll be proud of and others that we’ll want to forget. I’m not going there just to present but to learn.”
McTaggart’s road to Edinburgh began spontaneously after a conversation with the cast and crew of “Shadows.” “We were all sitting in a room—it was very Harvard-esque—and I was like, ‘I want to go to the Fringe,’ and they were like ‘Well, I want to go to the Fringe, too’ and then later I went up to them and was like, ‘You were serious about that, right?’”
But what may have sprung from a lighthearted conversation has turned into a massive endeavor on the part of the production. Along with the work required beforehand, both teams acknowledge that audiences at the festival will be expecting performances of a very high caliber.
“The second Tuesday is known as ‘Suicide Tuesday,’ when you start to question why you went there in the first place,” says McTaggart. While bringing plays from college to the ‘real world’ can be daunting, both “Box” and “Shadows” credit their Harvard educations as the foundation of their work.
“Having an academic background allows you to form new ideas,” says Colón. “People always shortchange how much critical thinking and analysis are in the arts,” says Elizabeth Y. Y. Mak ’12, responsible for set and light design of “Box.” The festival will serve as a way to engage with theoretical aspects of drama and grow as performers and directors.
“It won’t be the best piece I’ll ever write but it’s a chance to learn and grow; if it stays in a desk drawer you’ll never grow [as an artist,]” says McTaggart. He feels that now is the time to do things without being too concerned with practicality. “I’m at the age of 21. It’s not that I have nothing at stake, but I have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he says.