A disco-infused midsummer night

Hesston College students rehearse a scene from the theatre department's upcoming production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

No hippies or 1970s glam rockers appear in William Shakespeare’s original script of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but the Hesston College Theatre Department’s interpretation of the timeless play infuses the Elizabethan setting with a little bit of the disco era.

The cast of Hesston College students and faculty members will present Shakespeare’s classic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 7 p.m. March 23, 24, 30, 31 and at 2 p.m. April 1 in the Northlawn Studio Theater on the Hesston College campus.

Although it was written more than 400 years ago, the play remains one of Shakespeare’s most accessible and most performed comedies through its use of humor and outrageous action.

The Hesston College production, under the direction of theatre faculty Laura Kraybill, keeps the original Old English script, but throws it into the 1970s with characters portraying hippies, glam rockers and trend setters in the style of John Travolta’s iconic movie “Saturday Night Fever.”

“Shakespeare’s brilliant script transcends time, and over the centuries, theatre groups have brought ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ into many eras,” said Kraybill. “It’s a fun-loving play that I thought just fit well with the trends of the 70’s.”

The story is essentially one of social norms being turned upside down. Midsummer is known as the summer solstice, and ancient beliefs say it is a time when mythical creatures roam freely and strange occurrences are likely.

Shakespeare’s “midsummer” is set in a forest where the fairy world mixes with the human world of four young lovers and a group of amateur actors causing hilarious confusion and antics. The Hesston production includes dance numbers set to 70s pop hits to heighten the humor and give the interpretation a unique twist.

“Move over high school English teachers – this is an experience that will blow traditional interpretations out of the water,” said Kraybill.

The cast mixes students and faculty members as Bible instructor Michele Hershberger, communication instructor Rachel Jantzi and chemistry instructor Jim Yoder fill significant roles.

“Working with the faculty in the play is a lot of fun,” said freshman Cameron Ponce, Elkhart, Ind., who plays Theseus and Oberon. “Each of them brings a good deal of talent and humor to the piece.”

Yoder has performed countless roles in Hesston College theatre productions in more than 40 years in the science department, and the upcoming production marks his second run with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In the college’s 1995 production, he played the confident though bumbling Nick Bottom who ends up with the head of donkey. In the new adaptation, he plays Peter Quince, the leader of the group of actors, and Egeus, the disapproving father of one of the young lovers.

“Besides being a somewhat unusual and most engaging presentation of a Shakespearean comedy, this production is a really wonderful experience,” said Yoder. “It has stretched me in many ways, considerably more than I expected.”

The faculty members in the cast add to the theme of shaking up the expected and are sure to give their students a surprise glimpse at how they can be outside of the classroom.

“There are not many times when you will see a Hesston College Bible instructor in black leather and green glam rock makeup,” said Kraybill.

“I enjoy getting to know students in this different setting,” said Yoder. “I have to take feedback as they do and work equally hard on learning lines, blocking and character development. The students are invariably gracious, supportive and affirming of my participation. I learn so much more about them and can appreciate the richness of their gifts and talents in ways that I otherwise would never know.”

The play is suitable for audiences of all ages. Running time is about two and a half hours including intermission.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens (65+). Tickets can be purchased through the Hesston College Bookstore in person, by phone at 620-327-8105 or online. Tickets will also be available at the door 30 minutes before each show and are subject to availability.