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Aesop’s Fable Gets ‘Steampunk’ Treatment By Performing Arts at McPherson College

Many can tell the Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” from memory. Tortoise challenges the bragging Hare to a race. The Hare – confident of victory – takes a nap, but the Tortoise continues to plod along so that “slow and steady wins the race.”

It’s unlikely, though, that anyone has experienced the classic tale in quite the way McPherson College will present it on Nov. 13 and 14 with “The Great Cross Country Race” by Alan Broadhurst.

Rather than a traditional “storybook” design, Crystal Osner of Conway Springs, Kan., is creating costumes in “steampunk” style for her senior project.

Steampunk – a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy in literature and other art – is set in the Victorian period of the 19th century, but infuses it with a healthy dose of tropes from genre fiction. Think Charles Dickens – but with a grittier look that includes clockwork robots, steam-powered death rays and “2,000 Leagues Under the Sea” – inspired submarines.

“I like the steampunk fashion,” Osner said. “I like the Victorian style, but also the way steampunk roughs it up.”

The plot of the script itself doesn’t have any explicit elements of steampunk science fiction or fantasy. It’s essentially a simple retelling of the original Fable, with a few unique elements. For example, the story also has two children – who are the owners of the Tortoise – as part of the story, but they only speak in an almost-discernable “gobbledygook.” The children’s other pet – a basset hound – is the only one of the animals who can understand human speech and acts as translator.

Having parts for children also makes for another unique opportunity for college students and 11 students from McPherson Middle School to act together on the same stage.

Osner said there was at least one strong parallel between the story and the design. Clockwork gears incorporated throughout the look of the play will reinforce the idea of a timed race. Dr. Rick Tyler, professor of speech and theatre, has designed a forest setting for the play that is infused with inspiration from steampunk.

“The steampunk is really different,” he said. “The leaves are pieces of paper and there’s all kinds of clocks and gears.”


“The Great Cross Country Race” is showing at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 and 14. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3.50 for children ages high school and younger as well as seniors. Reservations may be made by contacting the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or at

Cast is: McPherson College – Nick Greenway, junior, Wichita, Kan. (The Hare); Josh Hall, senior, Tonganoxie, Kan. (A Badger); Whitney Murray, sophomore, Kansas City, Kan. (A Rabbit); Ashley Burch, freshman, Pittsburg, Kan. (A Hedgehog); Logan Schrag, sophomore, McPherson, Kan. (A Water Rat); Austin Crosby, sophomore, McPherson, Kan. (A Squirrel); James Covel, senior, Goddard, Kan. (The Tortoise) Callie Atkins, junior, Stillwater, Okla. (A Rook); Aubrey Hollinger, sophomore, Lyons, Kan. (The Dog).

McPherson Middle School – Zach Wash (Jack), Kendall Boughfman (Robin), Andre Patton (A Fisherman), Arriana Gross (Maude), Blade Anderson (George), Isaac Rickman (Mr. Notcouth), Kaylee Zeitlow (Mrs. Notcouth), Abbey Paulsen (Sophia Notcouth), Kade Goss (Brando Notcouth), Kaylie May (Farmer), and Sydney Achilles (Mrs. Stainer).

Crew is: Dr. Rick Tyler, professor of speech and theatre (director, set and lighting design); Addie Johnson, senior, McPherson, Kan. (stage manager); Crystal Osner, senior, Conway Springs, Kan. (costume and make-up design); Eric Johnson ’89 of McPherson, Kan. (technical director); Whitney Murray, sophomore, Kansas City, Kan. (props); Abby Trenkle, senior, Haysville, Kan.