“Pippin,” the final production from the MainStage Theater Department before the Hopkins Center renovation, puts a surreal twist on a Tony Award-winning musical.
This term, the Dartmouth Theater Department will present the pop musical “Pippin” as a MainStage production. The show opens November 4 and will run until November 13 for a total of seven shows. The two-act musical, written by Roger O. Hirson, composed by Stephen Schwartz, follows Pippin – the heir to the throne of King Charlemagne – as he tries to find purpose by experimenting with art, war, religion, power, love and revolution. .
Thanks to a team of award-winning special guest directors – including Shirley Jo Finney, “Pippin” examines what it means to live meaningfully. The story is told by a traveling troupe of actors, led by the First Actor. Upon returning from college, Pippin searches for a purpose in life. He experiments with different professions, lifestyles and places, but eventually discovers that true happiness is more complicated.
According to Dan Kotlowitz, chairman of the theater department and lighting designer for the musical, the main reason the MainStage committee chose “Pippin” was his cheerful nature. The show is also about someone who is college-aged and trying to figure out what he’s going to do with his life.
“We’re looking for something that feels relevant to the times, that we can launch, and that students are excited about,” Kotlowitz said. “And [‘Pippin’] is particularly relevant for college students.
Kamila Boga ’25 – who plays Catherine, the love interest and ingenue – noted that the cast gives the show a surreal touch by placing it in a timeless era.
“We pay homage to the show’s original 1970s funk, especially through the choreography,” Boga said. “But we also added this crazy modernist, intergalactic vibe through costumes and visuals as well.”
Heavily influenced by René Magritte’s paintings which juxtapose clouds with umbrellas and other objects that appear out of place, the cast incorporated similar anomalies into the show. In a war scene, for example, instead of using swords, the cast pulls out umbrellas.
Unique design elements are also found in the costumes, which were designed by Laurie Churba. The costumes are complex and feature parts made of computer chips and wires. A sun and clouds moving in and out of the stage, in addition to a distorted checkerboard floor, make the audience feel like they are inside a Magritte painting.
While there’s no definitive end to “Pippin’,” Kotlowitz noted that he hopes audiences find enjoyment in the music and dancing. He added that he wants attendees to leave the show with a sense of hope and comfort that they are not alone in their struggles.
“There’s just a sort of uplifting sense of joy, which I think you get when you’re in a crowd of people in a theater watching live performers that’s unlike anything else,” Kotlowitz said. . “That’s what we hope audiences will go back to.”
Boga said the hardest part of the production process was balancing rehearsals, schoolwork and other extracurricular activities.
“We normally met for three hours a night,” Boga said. “To be fully able to separate yourself from outside stressors, to be fully present and dedicated to the art you create in such a short time is something that I have found challenging.”
According to Kotlowitz, the show is similar to previous theater department productions in terms of size and rehearsal process. However, the design elements are a bit unusual as many accessories and decors fly in and out of the decor.
“[Flying] is unusual for us. We do sometimes, but we don’t do it to that extent,” Kotlowitz said. “There are a lot of scene changes in the show, so it was difficult for the technology, but it was a lot of fun to do.”
Lead player Emma Ginsberg ’23 noted how stressful, yet “magical,” the week leading up to the show’s opening was.
“Tech week is always fun because it’s busy and crazy and you’re in these long rehearsals, but it’s also kind of like a ‘we’re all in this together’ vibe that happens,” said Ginsberg.
‘Pippin’ is the final theatrical production to be performed at the Hopkins Center before the start of the renovations. For this reason, Boga said the entire cast and crew approach these performances with extra gratitude.
“For everyone who comes to watch, we just want them to be completely immersed in the story and also feel like they have a stake in it,” Boga said.
Ginsberg said she hopes the show will remind audiences of the joys of live theater. She urges students to come see “Pippin” because of the talent and hard work everyone put into the show.
“Everyone has their moment to shine,” Ginsberg said. “If there’s someone you know or love on the show, you’ll find even more to love in them seeing them on stage because everyone is phenomenal and put so much effort into it, and I’m very proud of everyone involved.”