Stow -- Europeans probably haven't heard of the Stow-Munroe Falls High School Drama Club before; but that will change this summer.
The Drama Club has earned an opportunity to attend the American High School Theatre Festival at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland's capital city this August that, according to the event's website, is the "largest arts festival in the world."
"This is really unique," said Robert Putka, Drama Club adviser and auditorium manager. "We've never been nominated for this before."
The group found out last May that it was one of about 60 American schools selected to attend the festival after receiving a nomination by Eric van Baars, an associate professor in Kent State University's School of Theatre and Dance.
The selection process begins with nominations that have to come from outside the group itself and ends with a formal application that includes a questionnaire and clips of performances from the nominated club.
Putka said he believes the Stow-Munroe Falls club may be the only group in Ohio invited to attend the event.
"We never dreamt this could happen to us," said Drama Club president Sarah Marmash, a 17-year-old senior at SMFHS. "We're [usually] not very lucky."
Marmash said she feels a little differently now, though.
"I was extremely grateful we got chosen," she humbly added. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Putka said the Drama Club's approach to theater is what sets it apart from other groups.
"Our philosophy is to offer a wide range of theatrical experiences to make sure we have drama, comedy and theatrically challenging experiences in both acting and production. The level of depth they go to and the level of excellence speak volumes for the program," he said.
Marmash, who plans to attend Kent State after high school to major in teaching and minor in theater, noted how the club's winter production of "A Christmas Carol" featured flying ghosts -- such intricate riggings are usually uncommon in high school theater groups.
Marmash, however, attributes the club's success to Putka's expertise.
"When we set our mind on a goal, we put 110 percent in toward it," said Marmash. "But Mr. Putka is really experienced in what he does. He loves working with the kids, and we love working with him."
With nearly four decades in the SMF school system and 60 plays directed, Putka retired last year, but confesses a love of the theater group that has kept him around.
"I just didn't feel like I could leave," he said, adding that it's "probable" he'll still be involved to some degree in the next school year.
The group is planning to send a small group of Drama Club students to Scotland in August to perform what Putka describes as an abridged version of the works of Shakespeare.
However, the group has a large barrier besides the Atlantic Ocean that needs crossed first: finances.
The Drama Club is hosting a staggering array of fundraisers throughout the year as it seeks donations to fund its thespians' trips to Scotland to represent the school on an international stage -- literally.
The trip's cost alone carries a roughly $6,000 price tag for the two-week adventure. So far, Putka said about a dozen students are planning to go, along with about three or four adults. Putka emphasized it's not too late for other students to join, though.
With donations from outside groups and fundraisers, Putka said the Drama Club has just about half of what it needs to cover the costs.
"Everybody is a little worried about the price," Marmash said, noting how her parents worked extra summer jobs at Blossom Music Center selling drinks at concession stands to help raise extra money.
"I'm really excited. They've helped me so much, and I really appreciate it," she said. "We'll do anything to make this trip happen. If we could get even more people to go, that would be even better."
Although the club has a series of fundraisers on tap throughout the rest of the school year, Putka said the group is welcoming any and all donations.
He encourages the community to help support the effort not only for the unique opportunity for the kids, but so the school can be represented in such a prestigious festival.
"I kind of think of our kids as good-will ambassadors," he said.
"We talk about Stow pride -- it isn't just a word," he added, "it's everything our kids do and everything the city has to offer. People should be proud our kids are doing something like this and putting their necks on the line."
Putka added "no donation is too small, ever."
Besides various fundraisers, anyone interested in learning more about the program or how to support the group's trip to Scotland can contact Putka through the high school's main number (330-689-5300) or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations can also be made online through the club's parent-run booster group Friends of the Theatre at http://www.myfot.org/Scotland_Credit.html.
Donations can be given to a specific student or to the general cause.
"We've got a couple kids in deep financial need, and they're doing everything they can to go," Putka said. "It would be nice to ease some of the burden on those kids."
Phone: 330-541-9400, ext. 4179