The Next Generation of Theater and the Fringe Festival

This article was written by Elise O’Brien, a student in Journalism class.


U-32 has a long history of amazing theater performances and classes.  Theater has had a big impact on a lot of members in the community, and it’s all thanks to the directors, teachers, performers, crew, and fans.


Every year, there is a group of eager new Freshmen excited to find their place on the stage or in the crew.  Many of the new members are looking forward to the Fringe Festival, which will take place in 2025.

Erin Galligan-Baldwin, the head of the theater program at U-32, is very impressed by the current 9th graders in theater.  “We have an amazing group of ninth graders right now,” said Erin.


Erin hopes the current 9th graders will stick with it in the future.  She says that people who start in 9th grade and continue usually become leaders to younger kids.  “And they’re already leading and they’re only ninth graders, which is really great,” said Erin


Jakobi Kmiecik, a 9th grade student, has found a love of theater in her recent years.  She originally joined because her sister was a part of U-32’s theater program in the past.  “I wanted to do it because I wanted to be like her, and then I really liked it,” said Jakobi.


Jakobi drawing in her art class. (Elise O’Brien/Chronicle)


“A lot of my friends did theater, so I figured I’d try doing tech.  I ended up picking costumes because it sounded the most interesting to me,” said 9th grade student Olivia Sumner, who works in costumes.  Unlike Jakobi, she stumbled upon theater herself, which was relatively new to her.


Liv in TA. (Elise O’Brien/Chronicle)


She fell in love with it pretty quickly, and has continued to do it ever since.  “It was cool to get to try it and then I was like, I love this. So I continued doing it,” she said.


Similarly to Jakobi, Willoughby Mikus, a 9th grade student,  joined because of her sister.  “When I was in fourth grade, we had a theater opportunity at our school and my sister wanted to do it. And so I did it too,” said Willoughby.


Unfortunately, the Covid-19 lockdown started shortly after Willoughby’s first play.  The next time she was able to join theater was 7th grade.


Willoughby Mikus and Jakobi Kmiecik performing in Unspoken Word. (U-32 Instagram page)


Among other things, she thinks theater is a really good way to connect with people.  “I think that it’s a really good way to get into the community,” said Willoughby.  She also does dance outside of school, and she said they are both a very fun way of expressing yourself.


Two of her favorite performances have been Peter and the Starcatcher, and Unspoken Word.  They recently took Unspoken Word all the way to New Englands, which she said was a very fun experience.


She also enjoyed some of the middle school performances she was in, though there were a lot of people in them.  “They’ve all been really positive experiences,” said Willoughby.


Olivia has had positive experiences in tech as well.  “Costumes is usually a pretty small crew.  Every day we have snacks and catch up at the beginning.  Then we do whatever work we need to do. But it’s just a really good community of people,” she said.


Like these three, a lot of ninth graders have been about to step into bigger and more leadership oriented roles.  Erin thinks this is due to the growth of U-32’s middle school program, Stage-16.  “The middle school program has been pumped up so much in the last few years, and a lot of these students did middle school acting class, and then they’ve done Stage-16,” said Erin.


This year, some U-32 students will be attending the Fringe Festival.  It is the longest standing performing arts festival in the world.  There are over 1000 plays going on at different venues, along with dance, comedy, experimental theater, puppetry, etc.  “We’ve done it twice before, and we’re going again.  It’s gonna be really fun,” said Erin.


On the trip, they will first visit London, England for a few days.  Next, they will go to Stratford-upon-Avon, England, which is the birthplace of Shakespeare, where they will see shows and go on a tour with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  “That’s a whole town dedicated to Shakespeare. It’s absolutely beautiful. I love it,” said Erin.   After that, they will go to Edinburgh, Scotland, which is where the Fringe Festival takes place.


Jakobi is very excited about performing.  Erin will be writing a new play for them to perform at the festival.  Jakobi is excited to learn a new show after working on Unspoken Word for so long.“I think anything would be cool. But I kind of want to perform a new show. Because we spent so much time on this other one,” said Jakobi.


“The idea is that we’re going to write the show together, bring that to the one act play festival again in the spring, and then that same show, bring that show to the festival,” said Erin.  They might have to end up recasting it, she will keep that in mind when writing it.


Along with performing, they will be exploring.  “We will be watching other theater performances. And we’re going to sightsee,” said Jakobi.


To be able to go on the trip, you had to go through an application and interview process.  You had to write a letter of interest, and get 3 letters of recommendation.  After that, you had an interview with Erin about why you are interested in going on the trip.


Jakobi was interviewed with Willoughby and Amelia Garland, another actor.  “We talked about how we all want to go and how we’re going to have a bake sale together to raise money,” said Jakobi.


The stage they will be performing on has had a lot of famous shows, which will be a great experience.  Jakobi said, “I’m excited to be in the festival because it’s a big famous thing and there’s going to be like thousands of people in the place.”

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