Biology professor dances through Old Testament in local performance

The Biblical story of Joseph will be told at the Erie Playhouse this weekend through a variety of song and dance numbers that make up the play, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

The musical is like a journey through ancient Egypt, with hilarious stories about Joseph, his 11 jealous brothers, his father Jacob and one particularly loud, multicolored coat. A vibrant tale that spans musical styles from calypso to rock to disco to country, this worldwide phenomenon created by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice has been entertaining audiences for more than 35 years.

This show has a strong Gannon connection, with three members of the faculty and staff showing off their theatrical talents on the main stage. Diane Hardner, an adjunct lecturer in the English department, participates in the show’s ensemble; Dan Mifkovic, a support staffer, plays Asher, one of Jacob’s sons; and Dr. Steve Ropski, a professor in the biology department, plays the patriarch, Jacob. Ropski is a veteran to the theater, and “Joseph” marks his 13th show at the Erie Playhouse. His role has brought along at least three new “firsts” for him. 

As Jacob, Ropski will be sporting a wig and shaggy beard on stage for the very first time in his acting career. He was also in his first publicity photo shoot for the show and will be doing his first aisle spotlight walk-in, which means he will be walking from the back of the theater, through the audience and onto the stage.

Ropski said “Joseph” is one of his favorite shows, and it has enabled him to step out of his comfort zone of straight plays and limited movement into intense dance moves and lots of singing. His character doesn’t have any elaborate solos, but there are five or six lines where Ropski will be singing by himself.

“I was a little terrified at first,” Ropski said. “It had taken me a lot of time to get my dance moves down.”

Dedication is second nature to Ropski though, and after dance practices would end, he would have the choreographer go over the dance steps so he could write them down and make sense out of them in his own way.

One aspect that Ropski said he greatly values through his participation in the Erie Playhouse theater is the interaction with people who aren’t scientists.

“It is refreshing to be around people who think differently than I do,” Ropski said.

To him, the Erie Playhouse is like a family. Hours are spent rehearsing and bonding with one another, and that creates friendships that last throughout the years. Ropski still remains friends with people he met through shows a decade ago.

The storyline of the show entails Jacob’s sons’ plot to get rid of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, after Jacob rewards Joseph with a brightly colored coat. They sell him to traveling wanderers, who take him to Egypt where he becomes a slave to Potiphar, a wealthy Egyptian merchant.

After being wrongly accused of swooning over Potiphar’s wife and getting thrown in jail, Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams gets him out of jail and into the employment of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Because of Pharaoh’s strange dreams, Joseph knows that seven years of prosperity will come to the country, followed by seven years of famine.

 He becomes Pharaoh’s No. 1 adviser, and eventually saves Egypt and reunites happily with his father and his brothers. The story is told entirely in song and dance, with a special megamix at the end of the show, which means seeing Ropski dance in a wig for a solid eight minutes.

THERESA PFISTER

[email protected]