Cathy Drabkin probably cannot control the weather, but she worked a lot of magic organizing an army of helpers for the Hays Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween concert and party Sunday afternoon. Guest conductor Jonathan Lane and the orchestra performed just the right interludes to enhance Catherine Trieschmann’s comedy “A Fairy Hallow’s Eve.”
The actors, directed by Erin Renard, gave their all, and a myriad of little ballerina fairies stole the show. Even the weather cooperated to provide bright sunshine that was not too hot, not too cold, and, above all, not too windy for the hundreds of moppets and their parents parading happily around Sheridan Hall, home of FHSU’s Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.
“A Fairy Hallow’s Eve” mimics the hilarious play-within-a-play from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in which a group of bumpkins are practicing their version of the tragic tale of “Pyramus and Thisbe.” The actors were all well-known locally — Everett Robert played Quince; Brenda Meder, Flute; William Brown, Bottom; Jon-Luke Martin Snug; Debra Creamer, Starveling, and the mayor, also the mayor of Hays, Shaun Musil. Professionals all, they struggled against a good deal of ambient noise, but it was a losing battle. Even so, their shenanigans held the attention of the audience.
In between bits of the action, the orchestra played such interludes as Saint-Saens’s “Danse Macabre” and Tchaikovsky’s “Russian Dance” while the little fairies and the members of the cast went dancing merrily down the aisles tossing paper airplanes and lightweight balls. A good time was had by all, including most of the audience.
The production crew, Luke LeCount, technical director; Lance Wadlow, set designer; and Janna Wright, costume designer, deserve special credit. Real pumpkin Jack o’ lanterns were everywhere, from the lobby to the stage. Artistically drawn pumpkins in the form of Thalia, muse of comedy, and Melpomene, muse of tragedy, graced the curtains on either side. The orchestra, seated at the back of the stage, was bathed in blue light with what looked like mist curling around their feet. Everyone onstage was appropriately and economically costumed — the little fairies looked especially adorable in colorful ballet skirts, with coat hanger wings covered in tulle. The biggest laugh of the show came when blood consisting of red chiffon scarves burst from the chest of Charlie Bottom.
Hundreds of people worked hard to make this show possible. In addition to the support of the Hays Symphony Guild Board of Directors, it was supported by a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Community Grant Fund through the Heartland Community Foundation. The Trick-or-Treat goodie bags for the first 300 children were sponsored by Keith and Sandra Gottschalk. FHSU faculty and students, especially Laura Andrews, Jeff Jordan and their students, as well as Hays USD 489 orchestra teachers Joan Crull and Nathan Mark, gave time, effort and the loan of musical instruments.
The first FHSU New Music Festival will happen at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in Beach/Schmidt. The festival will feature the music of living composers, performed by the FHSU New Music Ensemble. All are invited to experience an evening of “unique, exciting (and new!) music.”
Ruth Firestone is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.