Cast of Pippin has "Magic to Do" but it takes hundreds of hours of hard work to perfect

It's 9 am on a Saturday morning and where is the cast and crew of Pippin? Not in bed like most teenagers. They are in the Lampeter-Strasburg High School Performing Arts Center for a grueling five hour rehearsal. 
"All told it takes over 150 hours of creating and practice to the show ready for an audience in early March," says director Kevin Ditzler. Ditzler adds that isn’t even accounting for the time of the technicians, painter, builders, pit, and stage crew. Ditzler says, "It’s like a single firecracker. So much effort goes into this single blast of magic and light." 

Here's is the cast rehearsing the opening number "Magic to Do" two weeks
from opening night. LS News guarantees this song will get stuck in your head.

While the show's opening is more than a week away, the LS News team has been back stage this past week to bring you these photos and video. For those unfamiliar with the show, here is a brief synopsis as told by assistant stage manager, Nick Blair.

The Story
Slide show of rehearsal pictures from Pippin.
See more of Payton King's picture here.
Pippin (Brendan Massar) is a breathtaking epic story of a young prince who is searching to find his place in the world. He will march into war with his kinfolk lead by his father Charlemagne (Jarrod Llyod). He will take advice from those older, wiser, and more...dazzling than he like his grandmother, Berthe (Ashley Crutcher).

He will claim ultimate power. He will experience blinding, poetic love with a beautiful woman (Lauren Bliss) for the first time in his life. He will search his soul. Join Pippin, a mysterious troupe of actors and a cryptic Leading Player (Jessica Reynolds), as they explore the exciting life of a boy who wants to find where he belongs. A story justly famous throughout the civilized world.

Stromboli and Early Planning
You would never guess but the discussions about the next musical usually comes over Stromboli at Mr. Robert Shaubach’s home following the closing performance of the current show.

After selecting a musical, Ditzler rereads it to determine what it says to him as a director. Then he reads it again from a technical perspective. With some ideas in mind, Ditzler begins reaching out to tech staff to touch base on the show  and pitch ideas for the set concept.

Selection Process
Student auditions occur right after Thanksgiving break and rehearsal starts after the New Year. Ditzler says that having our vocal director, Mr. Erik Welchans, also be the choir teacher is of great benefit. 

The students get copies of the music well in advance to learn it and prep for auditions. Ditzler feels that "auditions are the best of times and the worst of times for a theater director. There are several surprises." Students were in the ensemble the year before that shine in the auditions spotlight, but then there is the casting process.

"There are frequently multiple students that may be right for a single part." saying Ditzler.  "It is a luxury for sure, but this is the part I dread--choosing one person for each part."  Ditzler says, "I am blessed with a very knowledgeable productions team that provide their wisdom and often sway my opinion."

Ditzler says, "Finally, we post the cast list and [jokingly adds] go into hiding for a 24 hour window."

To further illustrate how stressful revealing the cast list can be for a director, Welchans remarked when he directed the musical, he would have the cast list posted the day before Thanksgiving break and then take a personal day.

Ten Weeks Minus Snow Days
Ditzler says, "We typically provide ourselves a ten week window knowing that we might lose some time to weather and illnesses." So far the cast has lost at least three days due to poor weather conditions which make Saturday morning marathon rehearsals even more important.

In December 2015, Ditzler gathers his tech crew heads of Jessica Kademenos (set painter), Patrick Nightingale (PAC technical production specialist), and Adam Zurn (set construction) to discuss the overall design and feel of the show.

Welchans has held rehearsals to practice the songs of Pippin since students returned from winter break. When not singing, third grade teacher and choreographer Jo Carole Dodson led Pippin's troop of actors through the shows blocking and various dance steps.

Shaubach has had the pit band rehearsing the orchestration of the music with his group of students with several practices every week.

The pit band.

Zurn and his son, Benson, have been in on weekends and after school working on set construction since January. Ditzler gave Zurn various pictures from the recent Broadway run of Pippin and said something along the lines of build something like this.
See Zurn's entire Google Photos Pippin set construction album.
From there Zurn had to create the blueprints and then build the various set pieces after receiving Ditzler's approval. Some of the construction challenges involved building two full flights of stair on wheels; castle towers that could be covered in cloth and light from inside, and a mobile boulder that could conceal a person. Student safety is always a concern when building set pieces especially when they will be used in low light settings.

Other unsung heroes include Ms. Michele Meyer who advises the Thespian Club, manages the funds for L-S theatrical performances, and creates the playbills for both the fall play and spring musical. 

While the actors get a majority of the limelight, there is a giant tech crew of students who support those thespians making the magic on stage possible.
Mr. Patrick Nightingale and his tech crew.
The Lampeter-Strasburg High School Thespian Society presents Pippin on March 10, 11, and 12 at 7 pm in the Lampeter-Strasburg High School Performing Arts Center. 

--Contributions from Nick Blair, Kevin Ditzler, Michele Meyer, Benjamin Pontz, and Adam Zurn. Photos by Payton King.

Related: View the playbill for Pippin
Related:Explore the history of Pippin on Pinterest.

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