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Pippin

book by Roger O. Hirson

music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

 

April 25, 26, 27, May 3, 4, 5, 1996

Plank Road School

At the rise of the curtain, the stage is filled with smoke and in total darkness with the exception of stark white moving hands. From the center of these rotating hands comes the face of the Leading Player. He crosses down to the audience and sings. As the song continues, a bare stage populated by a group of Actors becomes clearly visible. Their costumes are of an undetermined period. It is clear that they are definitely Players in a theatrical caravan of some kind.

 

The Leading Player informs the audience that they are about to see "the most mysterious tale with magic, merriment, lust, murder, holy war, and a climax never before seen on a public stage." With that said, a Player jumps up with a lighted torch in hand, but the Leading Player quickly dismisses him saying that the "climax" will be "later."

 

The audience then learns that today's tale concerns the first-born son of Charlemagne, and is entitled "Pippin: His Life and Times." As a child, Pippin had a tremendous thirst for knowledge, so his father, Charlemagne, sent him to the University of Padua where he was scholar of the house. When Pippin finishes school he returns home where the audience meets him. Pippin is a young man who doesn't want to waste his life in pursuit of common things. He knows there must be something completely fulfilling out there--something that can't be found in books.

 

When Pippin returned from Padua, it took four days for his father to finally visit with him. Father and son attempt to carry on a meaningful conversation, but it is obvious that Charlemagne has other more important matters on his mind. The Leading Player then introduces Lewis. He is Pippin's half brother, and, after Pippin, heir to the throne. Lewis is obsessed with the physical and in love with himself. The Leading Player also introduces Fastrada, Pippin's step-mother, who is a devious, crafty, cunning, (but warm and wonderful) mother, dedicated to gaining the throne for her darling son Lewis. Charlemagne leaves Pippin and while he is alone, Pippin notices everyone around him preparing for the Visigoth campaign, which is reaching its peak.

 

A frustrated Pippin goes to talk with his father, for he knows now that he wants to be a soldier and join his father in the campaign against the Visigoths. His father denies his request, but Pippin argues that he is next in line for the throne and might be fighting his own war someday. He also points out that Lewis is going. Charlemagne agrees, and Pippin gets a helmet and joins his father in battle.

 

The soldiers begin preparing to fight the Visigoths, but the eager Pippin keeps getting in the way of his father's very meticulous war campaign strategies. Charlemagne becomes frustrated with Pippin's constant interruptions and finally tells him that he finds his attitude rather disturbing. He calms Pippin down and asks him and Lewis to join him in prayer. That's the way he likes to spend the night before battle. With that, Charlemagne and his men pray for victory.

 

A drum roll is heard - signaling time for battle to begin and Pippin and Lewis follow their father off to the battlefield. The Leading Player leads the Players in a number while the battle is waged behind them. In the end, Charlemagne and his men win the war. Declaring victory, the king tells the men to rape and sack, and off they go. Left alone, Pippin walks among the dismembered body pieces which are everywhere. He realizes war is a terrible thing and doesn't partake in the victory celebrations.

 

The scene then shifts to Pippin visiting his grandmother, Berthe, in the country where she lives and delights in all the simple joys of life. He tells her that he went to war and hated it. He confesses that he feels empty and vacant. The old woman advises "Don't do too much planning, and don't do too much thinking. Just live."

 

Pippin realizes that his grandmother is right, so he takes off his shirt and basks in the sun. Presently, attractive women appear and surround him. At first, everything seems to be romantic and wonderful, however, the mood changes and Pippin becomes bombarded by women and men luring him into exotic orgies. Pippin is repelled by this and asks to be left alone.

 

Alone, Pippin talks with the Leading Player who plants a seed in his mind. The Leading Player informs Pippin that his father is slaughtering people who speak out against him. He relays that there are literally thousands of people who have been killed by the King and that these people have been forced to fight for land they could care less about. Pippin is disgusted with his father's actions and decides that it is time for the tyrant to be overthrown. Down with Charlemagne and up with Pippin!

 

Fastrada and Lewis eaves drop on a secret meeting where it is revealed that Pippin and his followers are planning to eliminate the king. Lewis is shocked when he first hears that Pippin plans to kill his father, but his mother reminds Lewis that if Pippin kills Charlemagne, or if his father discovers Pippin's plot and has him executed, Lewis is next in line for the throne. Thrilled with this possibility, Fastrada seeks to expedite this process. She tells her husband that Pippin is disloyal and that Lewis loves his father. When this had no effect on the king she resorts to another plan. Fastrada prepares her husband to go off for his yearly prayer at Arles, and informs Pippin that his father will be praying there "alone and unguarded." When the King goes off to pray, Fastrada "forgets" to inform him that Pippin might be meeting him there or that he intends to bring harm to him.

 

In the Chapel at Arles, Charlemagne is praying with some monks. Pippin enters disguised as a monk and after confronting his father about the entire harm he has brought to his subjects, takes a knife and strikes him to the ground. The monks all rise and bow to their new king. It appears to be a time of new hope for everyone.

 

So Pippin becomes King of the Holy Roman Empire and he prepares himself to hear petitions from the many people in his kingdom. He gives money to the poor, gives land to the peasants, and abolishes taxes for everyone. Along with this he also abolishes the army. Unfortunately, when the Infidel Huns attack they have no money or army to fight back. Soon, Pippin is forced to revoke all the promises he made, and as a result, he becomes very unpopular. Not knowing what to do, Pippin goes to pray at the body of his dead father. Without thinking, he asks his father if he could have his knife back and then Charlemagne does just that. The King then takes the crown from Pippin and leaves Left alone, Pippin muses about his situation: He's getting old and feels that he hasn't done anything with his life. The Leading Player assures Pippin that things will change. He just needs to keep trying. Pippin tries a variety of other professions, but nothing seems to satisfy him.

 

Enter Catherine. She is a widow with a small boy and a large estate. When she first sees Pippin, he is a lying on a road like a discarded rag. It is obvious that he has lost the will to live. She cleans him up and tries to interest him in something. She starts off by telling Pippin all about herself. Basically, Catherine is a very ordinary woman with ordinary needs. Unfortunately, nothing she says to Pippin makes him change.

 

She finally sends her young son, Theo, to talk with Pippin since no man can resist the charm of a small boy. Theo tries to show Pippin his duck, but Pippin shows no interest in this or anything else. Catherine is just about at the end of her rope when she decides to give Pippin one more chance. She talks with him and finds out that he is completely in despair because he has an overwhelming need to be fulfilled and is not. After all of the time she spent waiting to find out what ailed Pippin, Catherine responds "That's all!" She then tells Pippin a bit about despair. She had a husband she loved very much, but he was struck by fever and taken from her. She felt that her life was over; however, there was an estate to run and a boy to raise. Life goes on! She then asks Pippin to help her run the estate, and he hops out of bed and starts becoming part of her everyday life doing everyday chores. This work really doesn't really interest him either. After all, he was at one time emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, not a common laborer.

 

Pippin finally decides that he has had enough of menial chores around Catherine's estate and he tells her that he is leaving. Then, Theo's duck, Otto, gets sick and the young boy comes to Pippin for help. Pippin tries to tell the boy that he doesn't know anything about ducks, but looks at Otto. All he can do is pray for the duck to recover. Unfortunately, the duck dies and Theo is heartbroken. Theo plunges himself into monumental despair. While on the other hand, Pippin, the Prince of Despair, dedicates himself to raising the boy's spirits. He persists in trying to help the young boy, but to no avail.

 

In the course of all this, however, he finds himself becoming more and more attracted to Catherine. Eventually, the two of them fall in love. Six months go by and Catherine and Theo throw a little party for Pippin. Theo even makes Pippin a little wooden flute. Pippin realizes that the three of them are becoming quite a little family and the thought completely terrifies him. Pippin tells Catherine that he must leave. He's convinced that there must be more out there. Pippin leaves and Catherine is left alone to reflect on how much he affected her life.

 

Pippin is once again very discouraged and sits by himself all alone. It appears that nothing is completely fulfilling. The Leading Player assures him that indeed there is something fulfilling: "The Finale!" The Leading Player then claps his hands and the Player with the torch who appeared briefly in the opening jumps in and a trick fire-box is rolled on. The Player with the torch goes upstage of the box. Another player steps inside the box. A cloth is held up in front of the box which reads "Pippin's Grand Finale." The Player with the torch sets fire to a dummy inside the box who is supposed to be a man. The cloth is lowered. We see the dummy burn. After it burns, the cloth is brought up again and the Player steps in front of it. It is a very realistic and frightening trick, and when it is over, the Troupe applauds.

 

Pippin is a bit underwhelmed by this since it is obvious that it is just a trick. The Leading Player assures him that when Pippin does it, it will be for real. He basically is asking Pippin to set himself on fire. The Leading Player prepares for Pippin to do this, and announces it to the audience. Pippin wants to do something extraordinary. Well, what could be more extraordinary than this? The Leading Player and all the rest of the Players slowly "seduce" Pippin into walking into the box, but just before he is about to do it, he stops. Catherine and Theo appear and slowly Pippin turns to them and goes toward them. The Leading Player is infuriated by this, and wants Pippin to continue with the Finale.

 

Pippin takes Catherine and Theo by the hand, and the three of them stand together. The Leading Player threatens Pippin - showing him what life would be like without colored lights, costumes, and make-up. Pretty soon, all the theatrical effects are gone and Pippin, Catherine, and Theo are standing on stage in black tights.

 

The Leading Player apologizes to the audience for this and the Players all leave the stage. The lights all go out - except for a work light, which a stage manager brings out. Even the orchestra packs up and leaves. Pippin, Catherine, and Theo are virtually alone. Catherine asks Pippin if he feels he has compromised. He answers "no." She asks him if he feels like a coward. Again he responds "no." He can only tell her that he feels "trapped but happy ." End thus ends this musical comedy.

The Leading Player apologizes to the audience for this and the Players all leave the stage. The lights all go out - except for a work light, which a stage manager brings out. Even the orchestra packs up and leaves. Pippin, Catherine, and Theo are virtually alone. Catherine asks Pippin if he feels he has compromised. He answers "no." She asks him if he feels like a coward. Again he responds "no." He can only tell her that he feels "trapped but happy ." End thus ends this musical comedy.

 

Show Program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Production Staff

Producer

Paul Sheehan

Director

Gene Guenther

Stage Manager

Lynn Ruhl

Athena Tsevas

Musical Director

Jay Kummer

Choreographer

Pam Ebeling

Lighting Designer

Bob Kafka

Costume Designer

Barb Redman

Vocal Director

Donna Kummer

Special Effects

David Gee

Bob Kafka

Props

Lynn Ruhl

 

Sound Crew

Jim Evans

Stage Crew

John Kessleer

Bill Patterson

Maria Patterson

House Manager

Mary Breitrick

Mary Jo Resop

Publicity

Cari Cody

Graphic Designer

Danae Augustyniak

Program

Greg Holland

 

Cast

Leading Player

Reginald Kurschner

 

Charlemagne

Brian Detmerring

 

Lewis

Mathew Brien

 

Fastrada

Kelly Brown, Linda Peterson

 

Berthe

Margie Kaczmarek

 

Catherine

Jovan Kreuser

 

Theo

Michael Palm

 

Young Pippin

Peggy Kaczmarek

 

Pippin

Tommy Hahn

 

Dancers

Cheryl Bruns

Kim Degenhardt

Pam Ebeling

Evan Howard

Jenny Janezic

Kristin Pagenkopf

Neil Rice

Janet Wolf

 

 

Chorus

Shailagh Buckley

Cari Cody

Mark Drzewiecki

Karen Estada

Shelly Frey

Joe Kinosian

Ricky Kubicek

Eric Olson

Erico Ortiz

Deborah Palm

Rosie Peterson

Sarah Schmit

Jermian Shaw

Evvie Smith

 

 

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