Script to Stage: Ellen Carnazza on Producing for Edinburgh Fringe
Leading an interdisciplinary team, third year student Ellen Carnazza produces her play Whodunnit? as part of the iconic Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
It was something I never thought would happen to me, but this summer, not only was I lucky enough to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but I also had the opportunity to perform, write, and produce there.
Feccles Drama Society perform at the Fringe every year. However, when I came forward to the society as a new committee member, with an idea for a farcical murder mystery set within a theatre company, perhaps it was a blessing that I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. Although I would now do it a hundred times over, the journey to the Fringe was not without its challenges (not the least being the literal journey from Cornwall to Edinburgh).
The script itself, named Whodunnit?, was a joy to write. The plot follows a student theatre company very similar to Feccles, as they prepare to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. However, they are struck by a tragedy as their lead actress dies in the middle of rehearsal (which is, thankfully, where the similarity to Feccles ends). Chaos ensues as the murders continue, and the hopeless director and stage manager turn detective to try to uncover the killer among their ranks.
While writing was a blast, production was another matter. In some ways, producing was even more rewarding to finally pull off because of the intimidating nature of it, and the fact that we had no idea what we were doing. It sounds clichéd, but none of it would have been possible without our main producer, fellow third–year English student, Iona Lewis. She dealt with all the main responsibilities such as booking accommodation for all fifteen of us. This had to be secured before we even had a performance venue because everything is quickly gobbled up by the thousands of performers and visitors that flock to the city in August. However, her biggest task was definitely keeping me (mostly) sane throughout the experience.
Although producing was stressful, the experience of being at the Fringe and being part of the madness made it so worth it. Having my wonderful directors, Janet Lalla-Hamblin (3rd year Creative Events Management) and John Leslie (2nd year Mathematical Sciences), bring my writing to life and put their own twist on it was an amazing thing to witness.
The Fringe is a theatre-lover’s dream, even if you don’t perform there, because of the sheer amount of performances that are on. We saw all sorts of shows from a musical about Henry VIII’s wives, to Fringe-favourite ‘Shit-Faced Shakespeare’, to some terrible one-person shows that performed to only the few of us in the audience.
I loved every moment, even the stressful, tearful ones, because it was so rewarding to have my work shown to audiences, to work with such talented people, to perform to unknown audiences, and just to be somewhere as inspiring as the Fringe. Even flyering in the rain was made fun by the people I was surrounded with and the exciting, homely atmosphere in Edinburgh.
Thankfully, to help with preserving these memories, another fellow third year English with Creative Writing student, Wilhelmina Denness, made a documentary following the creation of Whodunnit?. Check out the final footage on vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/231275384.
It is still surreal to be able to say I wrote, produced, and performed in Edinburgh. Even though it was exhausting and hard work at times, as soon as we had to leave, I realised how much I loved it, and I knew I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.
by Ellen Carnazza