LIBERAL, Kan. — Seward County Community College drama students are serious about staging a fall production — but that doesn’t mean they want to present something stuffy. That’s why the fall play, “I Hate Shakespeare” hits the sweet spot with a blend of comedy, modern characters, and a few visits from personalities created by the Bard himself.
“It’s a really fun play, with some humor and content from original Shakespeare plays mixed in,” said director Jamie Francis. Though Francis’ day job is coordinator and recruiter in the SCCC Admissions & Outreach office, she holds a bachelor’s degree in theater and relished putting her academic training to work.
“It’s been great,” she said. “I’m used to working with students who are just arriving on campus, and the play enabled me to actually build relationships with them and get to know them.”
SCCC sophomore Marioly Lara plays multiple roles, including Desdemona (from Shakespeare’s Othello) and Lady MacBeth (from the play MacBeth). A biology major who intends to pursue a bachelor’s in chemistry, Lara nonetheless loves music, theater, and movies. SCCC provided her with an opportunity to sample the liberal arts.
“It always intrigued me, even though I am most proficient in science and math,” she said. “The first time I auditioned for anything was at Seward, for the Putnam County Spelling Bee musical, and I was hooked.”
SCCC Freshman Luis Rivera, by contrast, appeared in “every play and musical at Liberal High School and in the community that I could. I get a lot of joy out of theater,” he said.
Ironically, Rivera’s onstage character, “Unhappy Person,” does not share the actors love of drama.
Lara said the cast has devoted considerable effort to maintaining their “poker faces” as the jokes roll out.
“We find ourselves laughing hysterically during rehearsals because there’s always something unexpected,” she said.
As Francis and vocal music instructor Dr. Magda Silva note in the program, a play relies on a fair amount of backstage magice. That’s where lights technician Bailey Powell comes in. An SCCC concurrent student, the Powell is enrolled at Fellowship Baptist Academy and plans to attend the college full time after graduation in May 2024.
“I wanted to audition for the play but I didn’t have enough time, so this was a way to be involved,” she said. The play is not boring to watch as she runs the lights, Powell noted: “I never really liked Shakespeare because I didn’t understand it, but I like the way this play shows there are actual stories in Shakespeare, not just a bunch of fancy words.”
Powell has also relished the camaraderie that has developed as the cast and crew polish the production.
“I’ve attended Fellowship my whole life, and most of the plays we did there were geared to younger kids. This is different and I enjoy that,” she said. “As a high school student on campus, I don’t feel any difference about my age. Everyone has been so welcoming.”
Lara extended a similar welcome to audience members.
“We have posters up around campus and I would say that if people take the time to go see the play, even if it’s not something they think they will like, they should do it,” she said. “It’s quite funny, and we’re having a lot of fun.”
“I Hate Shakespeare” will run from Nov. 2 to Nov. 4 with performances at 7 p.m. each night in the SCCC “Rapid Fit” Showcase Theater in the Shank Humanities Building.. Tickets for the show are $10 at the door, with free admission for students who present a current ID and senior citizens who hold a courtesy card.