Central Christian College theater professor Chris Gates hopes to set the cogs turning for students in an upcoming production of “Around the World in 80 Days.”

The steampunk retelling of Jules Verne’s classic novel follows familiar characters on a journey across the globe.

“Because it’s a competition to go around the world in 80 days, you have elements from all over the world. There’s a lot of interesting things that come about from that and we’ve taken the concept of adding a steampunk element. With that, we’re able to have even more fun in the way of costume design and set pieces,” Gates said.

A Victorian-era Englishman boasts that he can circumnavigate the globe in only 80 days. With servant Passepartout alongside, he goes on his adventure, pursued by a police inspector who suspects trouble.

“I work with kids taking a lot of arts classes and they might see this as just a classic literature pieces. This is Jules Verne, they think it’s stodgy or old, and it doesn’t have to be. it can be fun,” Gates explained. “It’s been a big exploration for us: enjoying the work, not just getting through it. We’re putting up something that we enjoyed doing.”

By stylizing a classic piece, students in the production are free to make artistic decisions of their own.

“There’s this no-holds-barred, anything goes mentality,” Gates explained. “It frees you in that the rules are stripped away. When you’re only limited by your own creativity, it’s very freeing. It can also take more time because you’re tinkering a lot more, and you’re not done until you decide you’re done.”

The freedom to create can be a little unusual to students accustomed to staying inside the lines of theater.

“We’ll be working on a scene and my students will say ‘Well, the stage directions say this.’ I say, ‘You don’t have to read what’s in italics.’ Just because it says it, it doesn’t mean you have to do it,” Gates explained. “I’m teaching Shakespeare right now, and he didn’t give us italics, he gave us the words. What can we see from those words? When you’re doing something like steampunk, you can make it your own. How can we set the gears spinning and see what we can create?”

Performances will start at 7 p.m. on April 5, 6 and 7 at Greer Auditorium on the campus of Central Christian College. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students at the door.

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at cderksen@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.