Trinity prepares to premiere fall theatre season

“Will he choose a happy but simple life? Or will he risk everything for a singular flash of glory?” asks the theatre department in their production of “Pippin,” written by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson and directed by Chet Walker, Broadway director and choreographer and Stieren guest artist.

“‘Pippin’ is the story of a young prince on a quest for meaning,” said Ali Campion, sophomore ensemble member. “The Leading Player of a theater troupe guides Pippin and the audience as Pippin tries to find meaning in war, sex and power.”

Yet it is not until Pippin attains a normal life with a young woman, Catherine, and her son, Theo, that he is truly happy. However, fate has different ideas for him, and Pippin, still eager for an extraordinary life, agrees to perform the big act in the theater troupe’s finale, at the end of which he bursts into flames. Nevertheless, Pippin remains with Catherine and Theo, which enrages the Lead Player so much, that he strips the lights, costumes and makeup from them.

“Pippin can be played as a fun, light-hearted comedy where Pippin walks off with his family at the end and everything is trivial,” Campion said. “I think instead we are going for a darkly comedic version where the ending really points to how the theater troupe plays on the need for extravagance and how easily people can be lured into their trap.”

Walker, the guest director for the show, was also the choreographer for the Broadway revival of “Pippin” that won four Tony Awards, and actually starred in “Pippin” under the original director and choreographer, Bob Fosse. Fosse himself is famous for creating his own style of dance, called “Fosse,” as seen in the musical, “Chicago.”

“The fact that Chet was actually in the original production and has worked with this musical so closely during the revival is absolutely incredible,” Campion said. “Just from what I saw in auditions and callbacks, Chet has incredible amounts of talent and energy that he will bring to this production. I can’t wait to see where he’ll take us.”

“Pippin” runs Nov. 15-17 and Nov. 20-23.

Don’t fret, however, if you can’t wait that long to see a Trinity play, because director Stacy Connelly and her cast and crew of “Body Awareness,” which runs Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 9-12, have exactly what you need.

“I discovered ‘Body Awareness’ last year when I was planning a special advanced acting class in contemporary realism,” Connelly said. “Annie Baker, the playwright, is one of several young dramatists who are reviving interest in realism with finely drawn, funny and complex characters.”

“Body Awareness” follows a family living in Shirley, Vt., comprised of parents and partners, Joyce and Phyllis, and Joyce’s 21-year-old son from a previous marriage, Jared. Due to Jared’s unpredictable behavior and livid eruptions, Phyllis believes that Jared has Asperger syndrome, a fact which Jared and Joyce vehemently deny.

“The tensions within this non-traditional family escalate when Frank, a mysterious houseguest, shows up as a special visiting artist featured during the university’s Body Awareness Week,“ Connelly said. “Frank’s art, nude photography, and his opinions turn the house upside down, challenging the family’s core beliefs and testing the limits of their tolerance.”

The four cast members include junior Kate Cuellar as Phyllis, junior Maryjane Mansfield as Joyce, junior Chase Lee as Frank and first year Ryan Diller as Jared. To prepare for the play, the cast is participating in interdisciplinary events with other professors and classes. For example, the four are completing the Body Image Program with Carolyn Becker, professor of psychology, and are learning about Asperger syndrome in Terry Migliore’s class on special needs students.

“This play deals with the universal themes of body image, sexuality, the question of what constitutes an image as ‘art’ and how these different issues affect people of all ages,” Mansfield said. “I am really excited to work on such an honest and real play with this amazing cast, especially because it is my first time participating in a main stage production here at Trinity University.”