STERLING — Audience members seeing a theater production of Jane Austin’s “Sense and Sensibility” would normally expect the classic story to be told in traditional style. They wouldn’t expect to see things like era specific costuming done totally in black and white or exposed lights and curtain rigging or the use of silhouetted lighting.
First-time director Ardynn (Brooks) Hershberger is directing the show in a highly theatricalized style as her senior project. One of her goals in staging the show is to remind her audience that they are watching a theater production. Her show will be staged at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12 and 13 in Culbertson Auditorium on the Sterling College campus.
Hershberger arrived at Sterling College as an art major in 2018, but after being “bitten by the theater bug” she never looked back. “Up until then, I had only ever been in a Christmas pageant, and I had never been a part of any real theater production,” she said.
Despite this, Hershberger said, Sasha Hildebrand, Sterling College assistant theater professor, asked her to help make costumes and encouraged her to audition for a show. Hershberger was uncertain about auditioning because she had no previous experience, but she thought it would be fun.
“I knew I wanted to be in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet,” she said. “So I auditioned, which I had never done before, and she (Sasha) was like ‘Ardynn, don’t worry, just get out there and read it.’ So I read it, and then I got a call back audition.”
One morning, Hershberger woke to find the cast list in her email inbox. “I was 25 years old but I snuck into my mom’s room, and I was like ‘Mom! You have to wake up! I think I’m Juliet!’”
At that point, despite landing such a significant role, Hershberger didn’t think theater would become a large part of her life.
“I had truly not been bitten by the theater bug yet,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh please, I’m pretty sure this will just get it out of my system. I’ll be Juliet, and I’ll be done. This isn’t who I am.’”
Things turned out differently than she thought.
“Then we did the show, and it was just amazing,” Hershberger said. “I just loved it, and I got super passionate about the story.”
After that Hershberger said, “I have definitely been bitten by the bug. ‘Noises Off’ was next and she (Sasha) let me design (costumes for) that one.”
Her sophomore year Hershberger was cast in “Big Fish,” “Steel Magnolias,” “The Liar” and “Gabriel” and designed costumes for “Little Shop of Horrors.”
She also switched her major from art to theater education.
Her junior year, Hershberger played the Stepmother in “Cinderella” and co-designed costumes for the show. She was cast as the Princess in “Love’s Labor’s Lost” and in “Carousel” as Carrie.
After her time at Sterling is over, Hershberger said she wants to use her degree to teach high school theater.
“I want to give kids an opportunity to literally walk in other people’s shoes in order to help them build compassion for other humans and to understand themselves better,” she said.
As the “culmination,” as she put it, of her time at Sterling College, Hershberger is directing and designing “Sense and Sensibility” a play based on the Jane Austen novel adapted by playwright Kate Hamill.
Due to COVID restrictions, seating for Sterling College Theatre’s “Sense and Sensibility” will be limited and social distancing and masks for audience members will be required. Tickets are available online at sterling-college.ticketleap.com. Available tickets will also be sold at the door. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.