Photo by John F. Russell
Miriam Pensack, Berthe in “Pippin,” sings “No Time at All” during a dress rehearsal, which will be center stage at the Julie Harris Theatre today through Saturday. Pensack is from Steamboat Springs.
Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp presents "Pippin" at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.
- Thursday, July 29, 2010, 8 p.m.
- Perry Mansfield Performing Arts Center, 40755 County Road 36, Steamboat Springs
/ $10 - $20
Steamboat Springs Like many college students searching for meaning and fulfillment, Miriam Pensack is trying to find her place in the world.
After finishing her freshman year of college in the heart of New York City, she’s reflecting on her choice to pursue theater as a career and a lifestyle. And like many journeys, Pensack came full circle, returning home to Steamboat Springs for her ninth summer in the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.
Today, Friday and Saturday, she’ll play a character in a musical that tells the story of what Pensack and many of her young co-stars are experiencing parallel to their art.
“Pippin” is the story of the son of King Charlemagne, but the historical implications are peripheral to the tale.
It really is the story of every human being, the search for meaning, and the instinct to reflect on one’s own actions.
The performances will take place at 8 each night in a physically transformed Julie Harris Theatre on the Perry-Mansfield campus in Strawberry Park.
Director Victor Maog, of New York, said a new take on the old space will turn the audience’s expectations upside-down, as familiar things become strange in the audience and on stage.
In the interactive space, Maog said the questions young Pippin asks himself are the same that the show’s writer, Perry-Mansfield alumnus Stephen Schwartz, asked himself while rehearsing on the very same campus in the 1960s.
“It’s the journey of being an artist, to elucidate for them what it means to be themselves,” Maog said about the show. “And it asks the audience, ‘What’s important to you?’”
The musical features songs that choreographer Tracy Bersley said sometimes sound like 1970s funk music.
With powerful harmonies and a minimalist backdrop, about 20 cast members sing and dance their way through the tale, through periods of light and dark.
“Part of the construct of the show is that it’s bare bones,” Bersley said. “(Pippin) constructs his vision of his life. Life is an open canvas. You take the influences of life, of family and history, and you piece it together.”
Pensack said Pippin’s rollercoaster ride is what makes the musical accessible to audiences from all walks of life.
“For better or worse, the existential crisis is universally relatable,” she said. “There’s no greater challenge than finding meaning in your life.”
For Pensack, that search for life is done through the quest for art, which includes sometimes questioning the meaning of her own career choices.
“They say that art reflects life,” she said. “But it’s actually that good art is synonymous with life. It’s the same thing. Very powerful things can be done in theater.”
Maog hopes that after the final curtain, cast members and audience members will leave in a reflective and pensive state.
“We have a great production team, a great artistic staff,” he said. “But that’s not enough. How do we pull from the performers an individual interpretation? Our insistence is that they make it their own personal odyssey. It’s not just an act of entertainment, but an act of reflection.”
And while the musical might end with lingering questions, Pensack has found meaning in the realization that the ultimate goal is not to find the answers.
“I think Pippin finds — and I know it’s the ultimate cliché — that love is important and at the end of the day, we’re fortunate to have one another and the answers unfold on their own,” Pensack said.