Mischievous fairies danced through the woods, causing consternation for an acting troupe in a world-premiere production Sunday afternoon at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center at Fort Hays State University.
Children and their parents created a nearly packed house for the Hays Symphony Orchestra’s second Halloween musical drama, “A Fairy Hallows’ Eve,” commissioned by HSO from playwright Catherine Trieschmann of Hays.
Prior to the production, children were able to view and even try playing a variety of musical instruments under the guidance of symphony members and student members of the National Association of Music Educators.
The HSO presented the classic “Peter and Wolf” for its inaugural Halloween performance last year and wanted to continue that momentum, said producer Cathy Drabkin, director of marketing for the symphony.
“The kids were so excited about getting their hands on instruments and being in a live performance with a big symphony orchestra that we decided we’d just capitalize on that,” Drabkin said.
She approached Trieschmann, an internationally acclaimed playwright, about creating an original script for this year’s production. The HSO commissioned her work through a grant, Drabkin said.
For inspiration, Trieschmann looked to The Bard — William Shakespeare.
“I’ve always loved ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ and this play is sort of a riff off that play by Shakespeare,” Trieschmann said.
In “A Fairy Hallows’ Eve,” a group of actors and their director have been charged by the mayor to create a children’s Halloween play, but the only place they can find to rehearse is a magical forest near Hays.
Director Peter Quince, portrayed by Everett Robert, has written a script in which lovers Pyramus and Thisbe plan to secretly meet and wed, but their plans are thwarted when Pyramus mistakenly believes Thisbe to be killed by a lion.
Their play is likewise thwarted when the fairies of the magical forest steal the manuscript and run through the audience, throwing pages into the crowd while pursued by the actors and director, and later stealing the inflatable ball prop representing the moon. Many more of the inflatable balls appear, and the fairies are again chased through the theater, tossing the balls to the children in crowd.
But finally, the director and actors — portrayed by Brenda Meder, William Brown, Jon-Luke Martin and Debra Creamer — work with the fairies to finish their play and put on a performance for the mayor, portrayed by Hays Mayor Shaun Musil.
The fairies’ antics are illustrated by the music of composers Mozart, Berlioz and Bizet.
Both Drabkin and Trieschmann said working with so many elements — the musicians, scene and costume designers and actors — was a challenge.
“I’ve never really been involved in the production side of things like musicals, so I have a whole new respect for people like Hays High School and others that put on musicals,” Drabkin said. “But I think it’s worth it.”
“I’m so excited that so many kids in Hays will have the experience of live theater,” Trieschmann said.