“It’s sort of the theater event of the year, worldwide,” said Caitlin Cassidy, an English and advanced theater teacher at Hicksville High School for the past decade. “It’s where all new works go to sometimes be born, be developed, get attention. And it’s every kind of performance art.”
The whimsical extravaganza Cassidy speaks of is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe—the world’s largest arts festival, held all August-long in Edinburgh, Scotland. This year, Cassidy will be in Edinburgh to experience it herself after winning a scholarship from the English-Speaking Union TLab.
In collaboration with the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School program and TLab, the scholarship affords Cassidy two weeks to learn and absorb everything there is to know about theater from cultures abroad—all while staying in a dorm at the University of Edinburgh itself.
Both teachers and fellow educators participating in the scholarship experience will hail from across the globe, only furthering the program’s point of providing those in attendance with a culturally diverse classroom and agenda.
“A lot of the professional development we do during the school year, so much of it has revolved around teaching English, and I was feeling hungry for more theater in my life,” explained Cassidy of why she applied for the scholarship to begin with. “This is a lot more performative, a lot more focused on you on stage as opposed to just watching other people on stage. As a theater teacher, it was a great opportunity for me to be exposed to more new forms of theater.”
With a BA in theater from Penn State University and a passion for performing that’s been ingrained in Cassidy since attending Holy Trinity High School, it only made sense that the arts enthusiast become a theater teacher herself. However, Cassidy didn’t always see it that way. Her original plan at Penn State was to focus on acting and direction, but as she learned more about theater and took an education class, Cassidy realized her love was in teaching. Now, she looks forward to imparting on her students all she is able to learn during her time overseas.
“I want to look at parts of theater that I had never really studied before,” she said. “I’m curious to see out of those plays [that we will be studying], are there any scenes or monologues that I can bring back to my kids, new types of theater, new styles, new interpretations of old works that I can show my students or we can analyze?”
As Cassidy prepares for her two-week excursion in August, she commented that she’s simply excited to be a student again, rather than her usual role of teaching others.
“I want to see some real weird stuff. I want to be surprised, I want to be shocked,” she proposed, “It’s cool to be recognized and to get this opportunity, and I just hope I can really take advantage of every ounce of it.”