Hello, all! I'm back with another blog about my experience with the American Repertory Theater's upcoming production of "Pippin!" Since my last post, we have nearly completed another two weeks of rehearsals. We have all been working very hard, and the show is really starting to come together.
Last week's greatest triumph was probably finishing the song "With You" and the dance sequence that follows it. In this section Pippin explores physical love. At first he does so with a sense of innocence and wonderment, but the experience escalates. By the end of the number, Pippin finds himself in an almost terrifying situation, and he must tear himself away from it. This number is very difficult to stage not only because of its tremendous narrative scope, but also because of the various circus elements, set pieces, and choreography we are incorporating. It was a beast to put together, but by Saturday afternoon we had created something really amazing. You could feel the excitement in the room as everyone collectively realized what a showstopper this number could be.
We also more or less finished "Glory," an equally epic and complicated production number which includes one of Bob Fosse's most famous pieces of choreography, the "Manson Trio." Our wonderful Leading Player, Patina Miller leads the trio flanked by Anthony Wayne and Andrew Fitch. As they dance, they are surrounded by violent depictions of the carnage of war - very eerie and compelling.
Our Pippin, Matthew James Thomas, continued work on the score all week. His beautiful soaring voice rang through the theater as he learned "Morning Glow" and "Corner of the Sky." Charlotte d'Amboise (Fastrada), Terrence Mann (Charlemagne), and Erik Altemus (Lewis) began work on "Spread a Little Sunshine," and the hilarious Andrea Martin (Berthe) began work on "No Time at All." I won't spoil anything, but let me just say you are in for some BIG surprises! These two numbers will be like you have never seen them before.
After an extremely productive week, it was time for a little fun. So after rehearsal Saturday, we donned some festive costumes and went out on the town to celebrate Halloween. Our cast members Greg Arsenal and Philip Rosenberg even won second prize in a costume contest for their matching Russian Circus Bear costumes!
It's a good thing we celebrated Saturday night, because as you all know Hurricane Sandy was right around the corner. What a crazy and disturbing experience. Obviously rehearsals were canceled for a few days. I spent that entire time glued to my television watching the horrifying footage of flooding and destruction. I was very fortunate and did not lose power or water, but several other company members did. A few of them are still without power, and two were trapped in New Jersey until today. Our circus choreographer, Gypsy Snider was stranded in Montreal (thankfully visiting her family) until today as well. But no one was hurt, and no one's property sustained any major damage. We all feel extremely fortunate.
The Union Square Theater where we rehearse is in the part of town that is still without power, so on Wednesday we temporarily relocated to Pearl Studios a little further uptown. With no subways or trains running, the commute was a little hectic (it took me over three hours!), but thankfully most of the company was still able to get to rehearsal.
We jumped right into staging the Finale. This is one of the most challenging scenes in the show. I won't say too much for fear of spoiling the story for those who don't know it, but it is in this scene where Pippin must decide whether the journey he has taken over the course of the show has been successful - or even worth it. Diane Paulus is a wonderful director and intensely focused. She led us in a provocative discussion about this scene and delved into its underlying meaning and message – and really the meaning of the entire show. She is very smart with her approach to the script and is passionate about everything having purpose and impact. Under her leadership, I think we will be able to make this scene really land and affect the audience.