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Players take their act to Scotland

William Ferchland
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Chelsea Callahan, Jessica Howell and Shannon Dolan, from left, are headed for Scotland to perform "Lysistrata's War," but first have to move out of their South Lake Tahoe home.
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For roommates Shannon, Jessica and Chelsea last week was a whirlwind of packing, organizing and nerves.

Not only were the three preparing to move out of their place on Paradise Avenue, but also packing for a two-week trip to Edinburgh, Scotland to participate in the world’s largest theater arts festival.

It will be the international debut of the musical rock opera “Lysistrata’s War,” written by two instructors at Lake Tahoe Community College and composed of nearly three dozen cast, crew and advisory members. Well, maybe three dozen.

“I am actually hoping to get my passport within the next couple of days,” Jessica Howell said Thursday. “It’s definitely cutting it pretty close.” It’s unknown if the passport reached her post office box in time.

The house was an exhibit in chaos but the women still flashed smiles and wore black shirts advertising the play. Shannon Dolan auditioned a second time for the musical this year when she discovered it might be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was again tapped for the lead.

“I’m going to be talking about this for my whole life,” she said.

Based upon the Greek play “Lysistrata,” the musical is still set during the Peloponnesian War and describes the story of women in Athens and Sparta joining together to coerce men to end the war by refusing sex.

It debuted at the college last year.

Theater teacher Dave Hamilton and music instructor Mark Williams wrote the play. Hamilton has attended the festival before but it will be his first time taking a production.

While theater is the most popular art form, Hamilton thinks having a rock opera with an anti-war theme might lure audience members into the rented theater with 150 seats. The time slot of 8:50 p.m. is also a plus.

“Hopefully an anti-war play from America will be a selling point,” Hamilton said.

Yet the spate of terrorist bombings, manhunts and arrests in nearby London made Williams cautious on how the play might actually sell.

“I don’t know,” he said. “As you know kind of after 9/11 everyone in America was gung-ho supporting whatever our country decided to do. They might be not so supporting of antiwar (statements).”

The sheer size of the Fringe Festival is amazing. According the festival’s Web site, last year’s event was the biggest with 25,326 performances of 1,695 shows in 236 venues.

The 15,629 performers outnumbered athletes at the Athens Olympics. Seeing every show back-to-back would take five years and 53 days.

“It is just an amazing opportunity for performers to go to an international performance festival,” said Pamela Taylor, a cast member in the musical. “I mean the town is going to be full of street performers and international actors, musicians, dancers. So you are going to be in a place that’s your passion.”

Williams hopes publicity of “Lysistrata’s War” will reach producers who might take an interest in producing the musical at a a larger stage.

In minimizing baggage burden, instructions to cast members was to pack costumes. For the women, who have mostly one costume consisting of a dress and sandals, the task was easy. For men, who don fake helmets and shields, packing might be more of a hardship.

Taylor’s husband, Chris, is also a cast member. Pamela’s advice was to stuff underwear and socks in the helmet.

“Chris has a lot of costume changes so I guess I have to make a little room in my suitcase,” Pamela said.

“It’s going to be interesting in airport security declaring swords and shields, she added.

While studying in England, Pamela once took a solo trip to Edinburgh. She marveled the city anchored by Edinburgh Castle, itself perched on an extinct volcano. In 2000, a United Nations estimate put the population of Scotland’s capital at 443,600 people.

Last year 1.3 million people bought tickets for the festival. With such a crowd, some of the cast members are hoping to travel outside the city for some sightseeing and some extended vacation time after the festival.

“I definitely want to check out some other shows,” said Howell, the one with passport troubles. “I feel just so lucky to be able to go on a trip like this. I don’t know how to explain it. I’m pretty stoked.”

For more information on the Fringe Festival, visit http://www.edfringe.com. Go to http://www.geocities.com/voxdoc/LysistratasWar/ for more information on the musical and possible blog updates from teacher Mark Williams.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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