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‘Pippin’ Offers More Than Coming-of-Age Story for Spot Youth
Wednesday, March 13, 2019



A fresh-scrubbed young face emerged from a cacophony of circus-like characters as dozens of members of the Wood River Women’s Foundation leaned back in their chairs at The Spot.

“I promise not to waste life on ordinary pursuits--I am to pursue something extraordinary,” proclaimed Isaac Brannon in the role of Pippin. “I want to be dedicated to something with all of my heart and soul. Otherwise, life won’t have any meaning at all.”

Members of the WRWF were seeing their desires to have their endeavors mean something played out as 19 teen-agers with The Spot’s Young Company played out their version of the 1972 Broadway hit “Pippin.”

Six months earlier, the philanthropic organization had awarded $10,000 to The Spot for its work with  youth. And now they were seeing the results as The Spot had used their money to work with students from Wood River High School, Sage School and the Sun Valley Community School on things that went beyond the stage, while making tickets free to friends and family.

“Thank you, Wood River Women’s Foundation for your support,” Director Yanna Lantz told them. “We hope to enrich life through culture. And we took 19 incredible teens and put them to work reading sheet music and learning how to choreograph. This involved much more than a show—it also provided a safe space, an environment where they could learn and practice things like public speaking.”

The youngsters learned about professionalism, working alongside professional actors, said Ethan Hunt. They got 10-minute breaks just as equity actors are entitled to, and they were reminded never to show up late.

“If we were having trouble figuring out how to make a sound, RL (Rowsey) would give us an analogy to show us what to do. For instance, he would have us pretend we were trying to hold our heads above water so we could feel the sound we were supposed to be making,” Hunt said. “Then it was easier to reproduce that feeling.”

The musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, revolves around a young prince on his search for meaning. Its original run remains the 34th longest-running show on Broadway. It won nine Tony awards and eight Drama Desk awards

Both Pippin and his father King Charles, or Charlemagne, are inspired from real-life individuals in the Middle Ages although the musical itself claims no historical accuracy.

Brannon as Pippin sought fulfillment as a soldier, bent on serving his country and his king. But he ended up fleeing, feeling empty and vacant.

On the advice of his grandmother, he tried a playboy’s life but found it left him unfulfilled. He revolted  against his father’s tyranny, even murdering his cold-hearted father and ascending the throne. But he soon found that granting everyone’s wishes couldn’t keep everyone happy. And, so, he fell into despair until a widowed farm owner taught him that the most fulfilling role of all might just be that of a modest ordinary life surrounded by love.

The kids did more than learn lines and songs.

They built all aspects of the show on their own, including props, sets, costumes, even trap doors.

“They’ve made magic,” said Choreographer Peter Burke. “A 365-degree look about the house and you realize the whole show is being run by young professionals. R.L., Samuel (Mollner) and I existed on the outside of this dedicated group—gently nudging here and there.”

Burke noted that only a few of the youngsters had dance experience prior to the show. But they learned moves quickly in a rehearsal schedule that was interrupted by snowstorms that closed schools, the Sun Valley Community School’s “Romeo and Juliet” and a trip to New York for some of the students.

“They learned some really hard gymnastics and dance moves, which they practiced over and over. And they talked a lot about how to find their own passion in life,” said keyboardist Dorinda Rendahl.

Beckler Thomas and Thor Roberts even worked behind the scenes helping Samuel Mollner and Jay Cutler design the sound and lighting schemes.

“I’m in awe of their talent and proud of the work they have put into ‘Pippin’—they’ve made it their own, they’ve raised the bar and shown our community what they’re capable of,” said Burke.

“I’m just in awe of all of them, added Ingrid Cherry, a Wood River Women’s Foundation member and the mother of Bella Maurtua, one of the 19 teens.  “They learned so much about collaboration and they got to explore so much. They’re coming away from this their mind broadened so much.”

The musical featured Isaac Brannon as Pippin, Savina Barini as the Leading Player. Christine Dufur as Catherine, Jasper Mott as King Charlemagne, Julia Ott as Frastrada, Rylee Brown as a captain, Sophie Harder as Berthe, Wyatt Root as Theo and Rye Fruehling as Lewis.

Others in the play include Bella Maurtua, Daria Brown, Elena Vorm, Emma Desserault, Ethan Hunt, Mattigan Monschke, Priya Merchant and Skyler Yuengling.

The Spot chose “Spring Awakening” as its first Youth Company production, followed by “35 mm: A Musical Exhibition” and last year’s Beatles-inspired “Across the Universe,” about a romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudian artist.

Those involved in that production researched the Vietnam era as they painted posters with the words, “Hell, no, we won’t go,” and created a backdrop of brightly colored psychedelic paintings and ‘60s-era outfits, including a hat made of puzzle pieces.

And they learned all the Beatles’ songs, including “All My Loving,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Come Together,” and “Let It Be.”

“The Spot actors created the freedom to make it our own show,” said Wyatt Root, who appeared in both “Across the Universe” and “Pippin.” “Some of the lyrics were a little silly, like the lyrics ‘I am here and you are there and we are all together.’ But, in the end, we learned all you need is love.”

“I’d known the Beatles as long as I can remember—my dad is No. 1 Beatle fan,” said William Carney. “But I learned it was all about love and how you’ve got to love even when times are hard –especially when times are hard. It was so interesting to learn the history and what people were thinking in those days.”


The Spot will offer acting classes beginning April 5 and stage Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” May 2-11.

The Spot is also on a mission to find a bilingual play with which to engage the south valley,” said Peter Burke.


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