I could not have agreed more with Mr. Watson when he recently described Collegiate’s production of Pippin as “a truly remarkable and dynamic experience.” I may not be an expert when it comes to the theater, but it takes no artistic prowess to recognize the amazing work of the Collegiate thespians this fall.
Opening on Broadway in 1972, Pippin was originally adapted from the work of author Roger Hirson and composer Stephen Schwartz. Immediately breaking the fourth wall, Pippin is both hilarious and engaging throughout its entire portrayal of the struggles humans face regularly in their lives. In this play within a play, Pippin is guided by his fellow players through the production of a young prince seeking his life’s purpose beyond fighting wars and becoming king. Pippin grows with his character until he rebels against the players’ manipulation and creates his own ending to the story to reflect what he has learned about the meaning of life.
Although I don’t speak from experience, I imagine that any musical, particularly one as complicated as Pippin, would be a difficult performance to pull together. Not only do you have to worry about the traditional aspects of theater— costumes, makeup, props, and acting— but you also have to find a way to bring in singing and dancing. When I entered the theater on the night of the show, I never could have predicted what an incredible job my classmates would do bringing together these theatrical components. These actors are young, and they have millions of other things going on in their lives— how could they handle all of this and still put on a musical? If you were lucky enough to see the performance, you will know that they pulled this challenge off without a hitch.
It’s not difficult to see how much every member of this process loves what they do. As their classmate, I can easily say that I have always envied these players’ participation in theater for the family they form during each show. Aven Jones (‘16), president of the Thespian Troupe, shed some light on this family in saying, “I love everything involved in putting on the musical, from learning the dances and blocking scenes to seeing it all come together when we add costumes, makeup, lights, and music. But what I love even more than the musical itself is the people I spend it with. They are some of the most loving and accepting people I’ve ever met. We’re a family, and they are what makes my experiences doing the musical so extraordinary!”
I cannot help but think that Mackenzie Meadows (’16) was born to play her role after watching her performance as Leading Player. She described the experience herself by explaining that “it was so fun to play this role because I had to be on and excited the entire time, which was a challenge but also cool.” The role may have been challenging, but it would be impossible to tell from the audience. If you were at the show, you will understand where I am coming from when I say that this girl is going to be famous one day.
Destana Herring (’17) had a similarly incredible performance in the show as Pippin himself. He had me in chills with his singing and had me laughing with his witty sarcasm. There was also a highly empathetic edge to his acting that humanized the role and made his character much more reachable to the audience. I will even admit to feeling starstruck when Destana knew my name a few days after his outstanding production.
I could probably go on for hours about Bobbie Edmund’s (’17) incredible singing voice or Marlyn Scott’s (’16) hilarious portrayal of Queen Fastrada or any of the other players involved. Pulling off a musical like Pippin, which demands constant enthusiasm and excitement, does not only rely on the performances of a few lead roles, but on the talents of every member of the cast. These players also had to balance their interactions with each other and the audience as they navigated their way through the intricate plot. What impressed me so much about the way they went about this challenge was how each player did so in their own individual style. Mackenzie used her outgoing and spunky personality to be as exuberant as her character demanded. Marlyn used her hilarious nature to embellish the relationship between Fastrada and her son, Lewis. Destana used his kind and genuine personality to make me want to root for Pippin on his journey. As their classmate, I enjoyed seeing the way each of the cast members’ personalities contributed to the portrayal of their roles.
All photos by Mr. Taylor Dabney