‘A Midsemester Prom Night’s Dream’ is a ‘fun fever dream’


Contributed by Jules Weiss

Opening night of “A Midsemester Prom Night’s Dream,” with costume design by Brooke Kesler and set design by Andrea Heilman.

Emma Cohen, Reporter

Professor of Drama Ken Gardner wrote and directed California Lutheran University’s spring musical: “A Midsemester Prom Night’s Dream.” Adapted from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” this musical parody sets a Shakespearean comedy to the tune of 90’s rock ‘n’ roll classics. 

Taking place on prom night in 1999, Millennium Oaks High School student Helen falls into a love potion-induced dream, and Shakespearean havoc ensues. As Helen tries to escape this Shakespearean dream, the love potion is placed on each character and shifts who loves who.

“A Midsemester Prom Night’s Dream” ran from April 28-30 at 8 p.m. and on May 1 at 2 p.m.

Gardner said he decided to expand on the original 40-minute version of this play he wrote for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company a couple years ago. After talking with a friend from the band 90’s Nation about the music for the play, he developed the rest of the script last summer and fall.

“I think overall, it will be for two different audiences. One that sort of knows Shakespeare because there’s a lot of references to famous Shakespearean lines. On the other level, it’s hopefully pure fun for the audience. I hope they have a good time with the music and the fun of the situation,” Gardner said. 

Parody songs performed throughout the musical included “Prom Star,” a parody of Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” “Shakespearean Idiom,” a parody of Green Day’s “American Idiot,” “Sudden Fall,” a parody of Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” “Backstreet’s Back: Rock the Bard Man,” a parody of The Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody,” and more. 

Abby Cardenas played Helen, who she described as a “lovestruck high school girl who loves this guy Donnie and whose story is about her going through this dream after drinking a love potion and then trying to get out of the dream and back to prom.” 

Cardenas said they have been working on the show since February and that it has been a very enjoyable process. 

“I think everybody is just so supportive of each other in the cast, and we’ve been working really hard together. Ken is a wonderful director and our stage managers are amazing,” Cardenas said. 

Joey Grimaldi played Mic Bottom, the leader of the Backstage Crew who, along with his doting followers wanted to perform at prom.

Before the show, Grimaldi said what he was looking forward to the most. 

“It’s a fun fever dream in the best possible way. Also, the execution of the music is gonna be really cool. There’s a lot of cool talented singers on board and it will be cool to hear them do their work,” Grimaldi said. 

In addition to “A Midsemester Prom Night’s Dream,” Gardner has created 14 productions for Cal Lutheran, one of which is another musical parody of Shakespeare, titled “Hamlet, Disco Dane of Denmark.”

“I’ve always been drawn to parody. When I was in graduate school, I did a Shakespearean review, and I wrote this disco version of ‘To be, or not to be,’ which was a big hit. It’s just sort of in my nature to parody things,” Gardner said. 

He said after taking a directing course during his sophomore year of college, he found he had a knack for it. As for writing, he said he got into it more once he moved to California and started teaching at Cal Lutheran. 

“I had written some children’s plays that we had performed in the elementary schools, but we wanted to figure out a more serious original student play. I was driving home one night, and Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ came on, which is about the shootings at Kent State. It suddenly clicked in me that that was probably the way to go and to try and write something about Kent State,” Gardner said. 

Gardner said he has always liked the playwright Arthur Miller, as well as thoroughly entertaining musicals such as “Avenue Q.”

“I just appreciate really serious good drama and at the same time something that is just all-out pure fun,” Gardner said. 

“A Midsemester Prom Night’s Dream” was the first musical production since the pandemic began.  

“I feel like the first musical coming back is a little bit special for everybody since COVID happened. I hope we bring back that lost entertainment that was gone during COVID and bring happiness back to that missing part of CLU,” Cardenas said.