Interview with Angela D. Davis, AHSTF Program Director

We speak to the American High School Theatre Festival Program Director, who is helping to oversee the huge influx of American schools that perform at EdFringe each year

Interview with Angela D. Davis, AHSTF Program Director

Hello! 

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader? 

My name is Angela Davis and I am the program director of the American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF).

Tell us about the American High School Theatre Festival, and its relationship to Ed Fringe?
The American High School Theatre Festival was presented to WorldStrides as an educational opportunity for North American student performers to perform and experience the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Now in its 24th year, we have seen more than 900 high schools and over 16,000 students and technicians from all over the North America, Canada and the United Arab Emerites, perform and be changed by the wonderment that is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

How many schools take part in the festival each year? 

It varies year to year but anywhere from 30 – 50 schools participate each year. 

How do you decide which shows to bring to Edinburgh? 

All of the programs performing with AHSTF applied to our program which is selective. Once accepted, the Directors of those programs select their shows based on their students and what they feel will best showcase their talents. 

How are the shows funded? Is it centrally managed or is each school responsible for the cost?

Each program pays their own way to the Fringe. We facilitate their travel, venues, technical support, a great deal of marketing, educational and professional development credit and act as the producer for all shows participating within AHSTF. 

What are some of the logistical difficulties in arranging the AHSTF, and how do you overcome them?

Over the years, AHSTF has become a well-oiled machine. Our goal is to ensure our students have a transformative experience and that directors’ feel supported to bring their best work. Logistically, making 30 - 50 schools happy and making sure they feel the level of support needed to pull off a production and meet their individual needs are probably our biggest challenges. We overcome that by maintaining relationships at the Fringe and with each Director and working diligently to meet those individual needs. 

How is EdFringe different to opportunities available in the US? 

There are performing programs all over the world. The US and Canada have their fair share of Fringe opportunities at this point, but even the largest North American Fringe could not compare to the Fringe in Edinburgh. The opportunity to be a part the magnitude of the Fringe and the opportunity that it gives for students to learn about themselves as actors and technicians, to see the world come together in one city and be educated on career tracks in the performing arts, is unlike any opportunity available to them other than here at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

Do you think the US offers good artistic and creative opportunities? Can it be improved? 

Yes, there are countless opportunities for artistic and creative students. From a vibrant theatre community that expands across North America and amazing theatre and performing educators who make the arts accessible to students, school community and communities at large. I think improvement comes in increased funding for arts in schools and for the arts overall. I think we can always do better in that arena. 

Why is student theatre so important? 

Student performers and technicians are the next generation of great actors, directors, writers and designers. It is their energy and passion that will continue to push the arts forward. But student theatre is not only important to the arts, it’s important to the world. Students who participate in theatre are better students. They go on to be more empathetic in whatever field they work in from being a police officer to a doctor to a social worker. Being a theatre kid, is proven to make a huge impact in how former theatre kids move into adulthood and how they see the world. Student theatre shapes leaders and citizens of tomorrow and now more than ever, the ability to see the world differently and with empathy and compassion is important. 

What is the best part of your job? 

Hearing from students who have attended AHSTF and are now in college or living abroad in Edinburgh, attending the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland or performing on Broadway. Having them tell me how this experience changed their lives is the very best part of what I do. 

And what is the most challenging? 

I think continuing to develop programming that is beneficial to our students and directors is what challenges me the most. 

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations? 

I was a dancer for most of my young life – through high school and went on to work for a professional ballet company as an Event Director, very early in my career. The arts are a part of me. The arts are a part of my everyday life and I am raising my children with that same appreciation and love. 

Goodness, there are so many inspirations, but I would have to say that when I saw Judith Jamison dance, it was probably the first time that dance became alive for me and I was hooked. 

Describe the last year in 5 words or less? 

Unexpected, Fulfilling, Exciting, Powerful 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe? 

Know that it is within your reach and just the opportunity to be in Edinburgh, performing on a world stage, will change your life. Do it! 

And what advice do you wish you’d been given when entering the industry? 

Be Open. Open to experiences, thought and ways of seeing the world that might not be what you are used to. It will help you grow in so many ways. 

Where can people find out more information about AHSTF? 

You can learn more about AHSTF by visiting our website at www.ahstf.org or our facebook page at www.facebook.com/ahstf. 

Header Image Credit: Facebook

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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