Seventeen year old Olivia Tebsherany talks about bringing GEEK to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Name: Olivia Tebsherany
Name of Edinburgh show: Geek
Venue: C Aquila, The Lawnmarket
Show length: 55 mins
Ticket price: £7.50 to £10.50
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I’m a seventeen-year-old rising senior with a passion for musical theatre. I’ve been a member of the Infinity Repertory Theater Company for almost a decade now, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to participate in countless shows, playing tons of different characters. I also am an active member of my high school drama club, where I most recently got the chance to star as Ursula in The Little Mermaid. This will be my second time at the Edinburgh Fringe with Infinity; my first was in 2016 with another original show, Dark Heart.
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Born and raised in Hopeless Junction USA, Gibby Stone is a gentle-hearted teenager who simply wants to be loved and fit in – but fate is cruel. Geek is a darkly comic musical about love, loss, persecution and redemption.
Gibby’s life in a dirt-poor conservative Christian town goes from bad to awful when medical treatment for severe acne has hideous side effects, metamorphosing her into a latter-day Elephant Man. Matters get nightmarish when Bible thumping Pentecostalists decide she’s in the grip of Satan after their attempts to cure her by prayer just make her head glow. In fact Gibby was simply blushing, after falling for another member of the congregation. Run out of town by the mob and taking refuge in a traveling freak show Gibby finds happiness for a while, but then the wheels of misfortune begin to grind once more.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
We’ve been tirelessly working on this show since the beginning of June. It’s hard work, but we love it! This show definitely has relevance in 2018 when it comes to issues such as body positivity and self-love. My character, Gibby, has a severe facial deformity, and it takes the entire show for her to realise that no mater what other people may think of her, she is still a person and deserves to be treated as one. Learning to truly love yourself is something people struggle with worldwide, and performing GEEK gives our cast the opportunity to reach out to those people and say “You’re worth it”.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
For performers, specifically those in musicals I would definitely say that the key is sustainability. Our show has a cast of only four with no understudies, so it is absolutely crucial for us to take special care of our voices, so we can give an equally great performance to every audience we have over the course of the fringe. Make tea, use scarves, use steam, do whatever you have to do to make sure that your voice is ready for any and every performance.
As for visitors of the Fringe, the one tip I have is to take advantage! See every show you can, go to a bunch of street performances, and relish in the fact that you have gotten the opportunity to visit the largest theatre festival in the world. It’s absolutely incredible!
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
It’s hard to choose just one! Well, if I have to, I’d have to say that the absolute most humiliating (and also hilarious) thing would be something that happened during a show last year. Infinity was doing an original show entitled Little Red (loosely based on the fairytale), and I played Lyca, a friendly wolf cub. Part of my costume was a pair of Doc Marten boots, and I didn’t anticipate how slippery they would be on the wooden stage. I definitely learned that the hard way; I came running onstage for an entrance and literally just slid across the stage, eventually just completely face planting! I just laid there in silence for a few seconds, and then proceeded to do the scene like nothing had happened. Not my finest moment, but a great example of “the show must go on”!
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
My absolute biggest inspiration in the industry would have to be Rachelle Ann Go. She has the ability to bring every character she plays to life, whether it’s Gigi in Miss Saigon or Fantine in Les Miserables. She also has one of the purest and simply stunning voices I’ve ever heard. I truly admire her humility, grace, and insurmountable talent.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
This is going to sound insanely weird, but hear me out because it does have a purpose! Since I was 12, my pre-show ritual has always been to stand still and silently trace the outline of one of my castmates. Most often, I rely on my friend Gracie Peselli, another member of the GEEK cast. I do this in order to calm my nerves and maintain a sense of balance and order before I go onstage. It helps me clear my head and put my focus solely on my performance. It’s always funny to see the reactions I get from people who have never done a show with me before, but this cast is definitely used to it by now. Gracie even traces me, as well!
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I’m looking forward to seeing all of the musicals I can! There’s a show called BARK: the musical that I’m very curious about, along with other originals, but I’m also excited to see the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. One thing my director and I have both agreed on already, though, is that no matter what else we see, we HAVE to go to The Greatest Showman Sing-Along. It’s a necessity!
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
I think that, as I mentioned earlier, GEEK has so much relevance to this day and age. A lot of young people can definitely identify with Gibby Stone: a girl who just wants to be loved for who she is as a person, rather than how she may look on the outside. Also, the music is just so upbeat and fun that you can’t help but hum along to it hours later, and I think Fringe audiences would definitely love the music as much as we do. Plus, the characters are just so incredibly weird that you’ll be on your toes constantly with regards to what havoc they wreak next! In my humble (albeit slightly biased) opinion, this show truly is a must-see at the Fringe, and I look forward to seeing you all there!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma