How long is the program?
The program runs 10 days, from Thursday, August 6 (when you arrive in Edinburgh), until the morning of August 16 (when you depart.) The first day will have limited activities and check out the last day is before noon. Participants purchase their own airfare so those interested can travel elsewhere either before or after the festival.
What is the program cost?
$3,700. per person ($3,300 if sharing a room). This does not include airfare to Edinburgh, which varies depending on the departure city. This cost covers at least 18-20 theatre tickets, high season housing, two group dinners, a city tour, and transportation from the airport. A deposit of $1,000. received by November 15, 2019 will secure your place in the 2020 program.
How do I apply?
Just shoot an email to Jenny at email@example.com to let her know of your interest. If the program is not full, she will invite you to send in your deposit and answer any other questions you may have.
What about other costs in Edinburgh?
Restaurants and grocery costs are similar to the U.S., even during the festival. If you want to see additional plays, Jenny will help you book them while we are in Edinburgh (the cost of theatre tickets can run from $15.00 to $50.00 depending on the show). The National Art Museum and Portrait Gallery, the Scottish National Museum, The Writer’s Museum, and the Scottish National Library exhibitions are all free. The Royal Mile boasts additional small museums as well as the castles on either end–with entrance fees ranging from $10.00 to $45.00. And of course, there are the pubs where it’s easy to drop a few for a pint or a whiskey.
Why doesn’t the program book our airfare?
These days, there is no discount for group bookings on the airlines, so letting everyone get their own ticket saves money. The cheapest flights to Edinburgh are from Boston, MA (check Aer Lingus, British Air, Delta, Norwegian Air) through Dublin, Amsterdam, or London. Hartford airport now has an international connection to Edinburgh on both Aer Lingus and Norwegian Air, which may be more convenient. In 2019, airfares bought in the fall could be had for about $895.00 RT. from Boston, and $1,200 from the Midwest. Jenny is available to consult on flights, and she will be happy to research your options and even book your ticket if you prefer. Jenny will meet everyone at the airport in Edinburgh, no matter when you arrive.
How, and when, do I pay?
Payments can be made by check to Jenny Spencer (see contact page for address) or you can pay using Venmo (Jenny will send a Venmo link to your email address). A $1,000. deposit guarantees your space in the program, and deposits will be accepted until we reach a maximum number of participants for the year. The deposit comes out of the total cost of the program–so when you pay in full on March 30, you will be paying only $2700. per person (or less if you are sharing). Space is limited and application to the program is on a first come, first served basis. Since accommodations must be booked early in the fall, we’re looking for commitments before Nov. 15, 2019. Final payment for the program is due March 1, 2020.
What happens if something comes up and I am unable to attend?
Since most of the program costs are prepaid, deposits and final payments are not generally refundable. However, we will make every effort to find someone to replace you in the program should you be prevented from attending because of medical or family emergency reasons. Should someone take your spot, your deposit and/or payments will be fully refunded.
What is the housing situation?
Jenny has found that shared apartments are the best way to experience the fringe with a group. Our accommodations are more spacious than a hotel room and will include a full kitchen and dining room so you can save money on meals, grab a quick breakfast, or have a midnight snack. There should be ample meeting space for discussions and even the occasional guest speaker. We will be within walking distance of major venues, and close to bus lines. Our house does have interior staircases, so let me know if this would pose a problem for you. Our current accommodation, should it be available, has six bedrooms and six baths (two en-suite).
What would a “normal” day at the festival look like?
Jenny will check in each morning with the group to introduce the performances on the itinerary, suggest places to meet for discussion or meals, and answer questions. In a “normal” day, your mornings are free to explore the city, visit tourist sites, shop, sleep in, or see an early show. [Shows generally start at 10am.] You will have tickets to at least two, and occasionally 3, performances each day. Theatre tickets will be handed out the first day for the entire week: we will meet 30 minutes before each performance at the designated venue. A city tour will be scheduled for our second day. We will provide a group dinner on our first night and a group dinner near on the last day of the tour. Otherwise, participants are on their own for meals [you will receive a list of recommended restaurants from Jenny], and castle entrance fees. There are plenty of free activities in the city, such as street theatre on High Street. Jenny and returning program “alums” will help you plan your own adventure, whether alone, with us, or with others in the group.
What kind of activities do you recommend while in Edinburgh?
Visit the markets: St. John’s craft festival has dozens of booths featuring local artist’s wares; a farmer’s market takes place in the parking lot near the castle every Saturday morning.
Visit the museums: the small Writer’s Museum on the Royal Mile is free, and the People’s Museum on the Mile is also interesting. The Scottish National Museum is huge with everything you can imagine–worth visiting more than once. The Scottish National Library always has interesting free exhibits.
Visit art exhibitions: Edinburgh’s National Arts Museum is free to the public, but there are also interesting exhibitions at The Fruit Gallery Art Museum near Waverley Railroad Station and the Contemporary Art Museum near Stockbridge. The Fringe catalogue has pages of references to art exhibitions at other places in the city. In 2020, Art Curator and Historian Lori Friedman will be joining our group and can help us choose what to see.
Visit beautiful Bow Street: with its the artisanal vodka shop (Demi-John’s), Cheesemonger, and Harry Potter World. Wander on High Street and experience nonstop street theatre. Visit the food trucks and gardens on George Square near the University of Edinburgh. Experience a whiskey tasting, available throughout the city.
Experience nature: in Prince’s Gardens beneath the Castle, or the Meadows and Links, near the University. Take a 10 minute bus ride to the Royal Botanical Gardens or a 20 minute bus ride to the coastal town of Leith.
Visit the city’s two castles, but get there early to avoid the crowds. The famous Military Tattoo? Only if your heart is set on it (let me know, and I can help you get tickets).
How do you choose the performances we see?
It’s easier to choose interesting work when you are familiar with the venues and can recognize award-winning companies and performers from earlier years. We will see at least one performance at the International Edinburgh Festival: these heavily subsidized performances have high production values (and are more expensive!). On the fringe, I look for new writing and socially relevant work in a variety of genres: physical theatre, political theatre, comedy, site-specific or immersive theatre, docu-drama, puppetry, and international performances. Most recently, the best shows have been at the Traverse Theatre (the city’s year-round repertory space for new work) Summerhall (a converted school and community center housing several spaces as well as a gin distillery), the Pleasance Courtyard (another converted community center within view of Arthur’s Seat) the Assembly (which has multiple spaces at the University of Edinburgh, the Mound, and on George St. in New Town) and the Underbelly (which offers interesting underground spaces in the city’s old town). What I don’t generally book for the group is stand-up comedy, (there is just too much of it), work by school groups (less professional), free theatre (which you don’t need to book in advance), and musical theatre (which tends toward adolescent parody).
The process of choosing the plays is pretty intense. The full program comes out the first week of June. Along with at least three other faculty members who are involved in the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre summer abroad program, Jenny reads through thousands of blurbs, checks reviews, researches interesting shows, and discusses recommendations from others. The adult group program of performances will differ from the undergraduate program, but there are often substantial overlaps.
How do I get around the city?
Edinburgh is a very walkable city, but if you get tired, you can catch a bus or grab a taxi. Expect to walk for about 15-30 minutes between most venues, and a bit longer if you’re going from one end of Edinburgh to the other. Although I walked everywhere during my first few festival years, I’ve found the bus system increasingly convenient for getting around the city. Once you know the bus numbers that stop near our apartment, you’ll be all set. The Edinburgh Bus and Tram app can be downloaded on your phone (all busses have wireless) and you can use it to plan your journey and follow the bus as you ride. A taxi ride across town will usually cost about £10.00. The city is very safe, and no one should be concerned about walking on their own, even at night.
What should I bring?
Most people tend to overpack on their first trip to the festival, so I encourage you to pack as lightly as you can. Remember there will be a washing machine in our house. I bring one suitcase (that I check and can easily carry up staircases), a backpack (that I carry on the plane) as well as a small purse (that can fit in the backpack for international travel). Leave room to bring presents home!
Necessary items: sturdy, comfortable shoes that can handle wet weather. A waterproof jacket and umbrella. A sweater, long pants, and layers for changeable weather. If you’re packing in summer heat, its often difficult to imagine how much cooler it will be in Edinburgh–so pack for brisk weather (60’s during the day, 50’s at night). You will want a phone in Edinburgh: you can either use your own cell phone and buy an international SIM card when you arrive) or use a data-less phone for local calls provided by the program. Bring an ATM debit card: ATMs are everywhere and are the cheapest way to get pounds. Make sure your bank is alerted to your travel plans. Most important: a current passport! Participants will get a packing list and more specific information about our itinerary later in the spring.
How much money will I need in Edinburgh?
You should plan to spend money on food, as you would at home (whether in restaurants, pubs, sandwich shops, or at the grocery store). There are a lot of cheap street food trucks, small cafes, and pubs at every venue. Most major museums are free and the castles usually have an entry fee that, depending on the exchange rate, is around $35.00. I was in Edinburgh 10 times before finally visiting the castles–there are so many other things to do! Taxis can add up if you’re averse to walking, but buses are more economical. Of course, you can spend as much or as little as you want on souvenirs! If you want to see additional International Festival events, the average price is $50-75.00 and should probably be booked in advance. Jenny can help you book additional fringe shows if you wish, many of them at a 2 for 1 rate. Those shows range from $10 to $40 before any discounts.
How do I sign up?
Space in the 2020 program is limited, so the sooner you let Jenny know you are interested, the better. Email your interest to Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will follow up. Until Nov. 1, a $1000. deposit will secure your space in the program. After that time, deposits will be accepted on a space-available basis.