By Anna Genna
This past summer, Westmont’s Theatre Arts department took an original musical, The Birds, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world, with half a million people attending. Audiences gather in Scotland’s capital in order to see performances from all over the world. Churches, pubs, sports centers, and more are used as performance spaces during this 3 week long festival. Through the American High School Theatre Festival, some of Westmont High School’s best actors and technicians were able to experience this wonderful conglomeration of theatre.
The musical taken to Scotland was created as a master’s thesis project by Jeff Bengford, our school’s theatre teacher. The Birds is a modern day adaptation of The Birds by Aristophanes, an Ancient Greek playwright who specialized in comedies. The show follows two con men who become broke, and therefore leave to the land of the birds. With the birds they make a nation as well as currency. They later interrupt the connection between gods and people, by taxing the gods and declaring birds as the new gods. One of the con men eventually gets married to another goddess and all is peaceful. I was fortunate enough to see it at Westmont’s theater for one of the in-state performances, with the most notable and hilarious part of this show being the satire. Catered to a modern day audience, Donald Trump, the Kardashians, Mark Zuckerberg, and more graced the stage. Many actors and technicians themselves enjoyed the satire as well, along with the upbeat music and dancing. Mika Shahar, who played the Albatross and Kim Kardashian, said, “I personally really loved any scene the former president Donald Trump was in.”
For all those involved, The Birds was a very different experience to that of the average Westmont show. Actors and technicians were at the theater most days of the summer, working hard to create a show that would be going to such a large event. The show’s simple set needed to be loaded on and off the stage, which was done by the actors in the eyesight of the audience. Many people who were traditionally technicians performed as actors in this show, as very few technicians would be able to do tech roles on this show. At one point, an actor got sick, and one of the few working techs had to step into the role. In all of this, the cast and crew of The Birds traveled to London, in addition to Scotland. The trip became more than just The Birds, as they were able to see shows, monuments, and more. This is most definitely one of the greatest accomplishments of the theatre department recently, and allowed for our school to be represented on a national level. The department is currently preparing for 3 shows: Monster Mash, Fright Nights, and Sherlock Holmes. If you would like to help the theatre put on more amazing productions, please come see Monster Mash and Fright Nights in late October, as well as Sherlock Holmes in mid November. All information can be found on Westmont Theater.