Award-winning artist Chet Walker directed Trinity Universityâ€™s performance of the musical â€œPippin.â€ Walker starred in the original version and choreographed the revival, currently on Broadway. Many student actors involved in the production of â€œPippinâ€ have learned and grown because of Walkerâ€™s direction.
â€œPippinâ€ is about a troupe of actors putting on a play about a man who wants an extraordinary lifeâ€“a life with meaning and fulfillment. Â His endeavors are the source of much of the showâ€™s material, yet there is a constant surrealist edge to the mood. Â The characters are being directed onstage by the Leading Player, portrayed by first year Alejandro Cardona.
Despite Cardonaâ€™s success as Leading Player, he faced challenges, both physical and otherwise.
â€œWhen I got the role, my initial thoughts were, â€˜I canâ€™t dance,â€™ and then everything became about whether or not I could play the moves physically well,â€ Cardona said. â€œIt became a sort of spiritual journey. But Iâ€™ve put hours and hours of extra work in the dance studio to be able to get myself to the point that I need to be at. That was the hardest part of this show.â€
Cardona added that Walker helped him deal with the pressures of both quality and time while working on the production.
â€œFrom Chet, Iâ€™ve learned that there are no excuses,â€ Cardona said. â€œAnytime people donâ€™t think they can accomplish a task, heâ€™ll just say, â€˜Well, we open on the fifteenth.â€™ Â Itâ€™s stressing the point that when something needs to happen, you just make it happen.â€
Cardona also conveys a sense of triumph in the showâ€™s progress considering the constraints that were put not only on the cast, but also on the crew and faculty overseeing the progress.
â€œI donâ€™t think anybody believed that we could put together this big a musical with this complexity of numbers in five weeksâ€“thatâ€™s ridiculous,â€ Cardona said. â€œBut I donâ€™t think any other director could pull this off besides Chet. Nobody would trust anybody else.â€
Playing the titular character is Trinity acting veteran Jonathan Moore, who details his experience with the acting side of the performance.
â€œFor me, the acting was definitely the most difficult part,â€ Moore said. Â â€œIâ€™ve never had to play an actor playing a character, so it was a challenge. Â Chet stresses the motivation of everything, so if you canâ€™t find a reason to do something, you donâ€™t do it.â€
However, Moore has both increased his knowledge and perhaps his ability when dealing with the realm of musical theatre.
â€œWhat Iâ€™ve really learned about was taking acting and applying it to choreography and singing,â€ Moore said. â€œIt was something I hadnâ€™t really done before and had initially struggled with, and Iâ€™m still working on it. Â I learned a lot about motivating every work of a song and every choreographed step, which were both things Iâ€™d never learned about before.â€
Because of his experience on the Trinity stage, Moore was also able to compare Walkerâ€™s direction to past ones.
â€œChet brings a different air of commercialism. Â He takes us out of the academic context,â€ Moore said. â€œIâ€™ve worked with every director and guest director, but they all have an academic bent. Chet was one of the first experiences Iâ€™ve had with commercial theatre, so his eye is not for what we are learning from the production, but his goal is the success of the production.â€
Playing the role of Catherine is sophomore Sarah Perkins. Â While Catherine is often only interpreted as the â€œlove interestâ€ of Pippin, Perkins worked to find more depth in the character and apply it to her work.
â€œI actually wasnâ€™t aware of the different facets of Catherine until I was talking with Chet during one of my rehearsals,â€ Perkins said. â€œI saw her as a love interest, but through my interactions and through analyzing the script, I was able to see that she is an incredibly complex character.â€
Perkins played a similar role in last yearâ€™s MainStage production â€œThe Crazy Locomotive.â€ She acknowledges the similarity between these parts and explains what draws her to this type of character.
â€œItâ€™s interesting because these women are playing sort of silly roles, and you donâ€™t get to see how dynamic or powerful they are until the final moments of the show,â€ Perkins said. â€œAnd so, I enjoy these roles because the audience thinks theyâ€™re so dismissible until their last monologue or action of the play.â€
Trinity Universityâ€™s performance of â€œPippinâ€ will hit the stage Nov. 15-17 and Nov. 20-23 with curtain times at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and 8 p.m. next weekend in the Stieren Theater.