2016-02-26 / Community

SPHS to present ‘Pippin’ under new director

South Portland High School presents “Pippin,” performed at the South Portland High School Auditorium for two weekends, beginning April 1.

Directed by Stephanie Ross, with musical direction by Victoria Stubbs and choreography by Vanessa Powell Beyland, Pippin tells the universal story of a young person who seeks to find themselves and to chart a path to happiness, with all the tumult and triumph that entails. Debuting on Broadway in 1973 under the direction of the legendary Bob Fosse, with a successful 2013 revival, “Pippin” has been awarded a total of nine Tony Awards over its original and revival runs on the Great White Way, a testament to its staying power.

Pippin begins with the mysterious ringmaster of the travelling circus troupe inviting their audience to join the play. She, along with the all the circus performers, proceed to enact the story of Pippin, from his royal birth as the son of King Charlemagne, to the present day of the play: Pippin’s graduation from the University of Padua. Emerging from the educational cocoon, Pippin thanks the faculty for his knowledge, but proclaims that what he seeks cannot be found in books. He promises not to waste his life in pursuit of ordinary things, but rather to find something completely fulfilling. Under the ever-watchful eye of the circus’ ringmaster – otherwise known as the Leading Player – Pippin asks himself: “Where do I want to go?” And so begins this entanglement between the ringmaster and Pippin. She leads him on a quest through many different dramatized experiences. The roles, enacted by the many performers of the circus troupe, are played out all according to her script. The ringmaster insists Pippin must always aim to be extraordinary if he wants his life to be fulfilling, even if it means going out in a blaze of glory. Pippin is left confused, disillusioned and depressed. From here, in search of nothing but rest from his experiences, he befriends the performer playing the character of Catherine, the owner of a working farm. It is here where the lines of illusion and reality become blurred; as Pippin works on her farm, their relationship takes on a life of its own, apart from the ringmaster’s script. Suffice it to say, she is not amused.

“Pippin is a complex musical,” said Stephanie Ross, director of the program. “The deep questions it brings to life are heavily masked in a remarkable circus set, aerialist silk artistry, colorful costumes and glittering makeup, not to mention the brilliant songs and choreography. What do I want out of life? What do I do? What do my parents, teachers, relatives, rabbis, etc. want for me? In life, it can be very difficult to look away from the pretty distractions, quiet the chatter, and truly understand that the decisions we make - or don’t, as the case may be – determine our own paths. The pressure to please others can be strong. In many of us that pressure can cause us to put aside our own dreams in deference to those who, for whatever reason, think their dreams for us are a better choice than any we could make for ourselves. The hope this musical leaves us with is that no matter where one is in life, no matter what you may have conceded over a lifetime, there is always a chance to begin again and again and again - however long it takes. As long as we wake each day, we have the power to pursue the dreams we dream. My great acting teachers at the Atlantic Theatre Company always said to us: ‘The only thing that stops you from succeeding is giving up trying.’”

Ross spoke about what it’s like to be the new director of musicals at South Portland High School, following Steve and Jane Filieo after their 26 years as director and producer.

“When I was hired in late Summer 2015, I admit, the idea of having to follow Steve and Jane was a little unsettling. There are not many folks who can say they’ve invested 26 years in anything, really. To have given nearly three decades, to first creating and then growing this program year after year, is not just a testament to their love of, and commitment to, musical theater, but more importantly recognizing the necessity of teaching theater arts in our schools. Countless numbers of South Portland High School students have had the opportunity to train with them and develop an understanding and respect for the art of musical theatre. Without the Filieos starting this program, which was and still is self sustaining, who knows if a musical program would even exist today? Never mind the fact that they have created theater with professional quality production values – a feat rarely seen at the high school level. One thing that is known: this program is what it is today because of Steve and Jane. Their dedication to SPHS musical theater is nothing short of extraordinary and I know I speak for decades of SPHS students when I say, this community is eternally indebted to them for all they’ve done in bringing musical theatre to South Portland High School.”

FMI

South Portland High School presents Pippin, April 1-10, Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m., Sunday performances at 2 p.m. The performance on Sunday, April 3 will be interpreted in American Sign Language. All performances will take place at South Portland High School Auditorium, located at 637 Highland Ave., South Portland. Tickets are available at http://www.myticketportal.com or by calling the box office at 767-7711, ext. 3837.

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