KUSD’s virtual showing of ‘Pippin’ starts Friday

Streaming-only performance runs two weekends

By Laura MarranKENOSHA.COM

After two decades in journalism, Marran earned her Master’s degree in Exceptional Education from UW-Milwaukee and has served as a special education teacher with Kenosha Unified School District since 2006. A Marquette University School of Journalism alum, Marran has lived in Kenosha since 1987.

“Everything has its season

Everything has its time

Show me a reason

And I’ll show you a rhyme”

KUSD Theatre Arts, under the direction of Holly Stanfield, took those words from the song “Corner of the Sky” to heart, deciding this is a fitting season to stage the Tony Award-winning musical “Pippin.” There’s good reason to believe it’s time to tell Kenosha’s story, as well.

“Experiencing all the different things that we do as we leave our educational institutions and thrust ourselves into adult life, the story is especially poignant considering everything that is going on in our world right now,” Stanfield said.

“Pippin” debuts Friday at 7:30 p.m., continuing Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., and again March 5-7. The show is streaming only. Tickets are available online, with a login code to view the performance included with purchase confirmation.

Pippin’s unique story-within-a-story tells of a young man searching for meaning in his life, facing obstacles and decisions along the way. The story lends itself perfectly to the emotional journey our community has traveled in the past year, Stanfield said.

“We set the story in Kenosha, starting with people coming in and just recognizing where we are right now with everything that’s going on, which is a little stressful,” Stanfield said, adding that the show includes surprise local touches.

“It’s about growing, and the idea that we have challenges and stresses every day, which is really what the show is about,” Stanfield said. “But in the end you can make a choice to be a part of a community and there is support for you.”

The KUSD Theatre Arts program held general auditions in the fall, and then shows were selected and cast tailored to that talented group. In keeping with another song from the show, the “Pippin” cast has clicked as if they had “Magic to Do.”

“There was not one bad moment. They are just so happy to be doing something in proximity to someone else,” Stanfield said. “They have been perfect, absolutely stunning human beings. They have my heart and respect.”

“It’s about growing, and the idea that we have challenges and stresses every day, which is really what the show is about.”

– Holly Stanfield, on KUSD’s version of “Pippin”

Jada Moss stars as Leading Player, the charming and manipulative ringleader who guides Pippin through his own tale. Sam Arnold is Pippin, the young and confused protagonist yearning to make his way in the world and find his life’s purpose.

Rounding out the leading roles are Corey Lallo as Charles, Jerrick Smith as Lewis, Shanise Coleman as Fastrada, Samantha Keckeisen as Berthe, Evelyn Alumbreros as Catherine, and Isabelle Northern as Thea.

The cast of players also includes: Riley Cameron, Gavin Casillas, Jamie Hall , Devon Henningfield, Myles Lloyd, Carly Mikula, Ignacio Perez, Davan Smith and Madison Turner.

While there’s no doubt these students will shine on stage, Stanfield said it was behind the scenes where they truly showed their dedication and perseverance. The entire production held fast to Covid safety procedures including masking, social distancing, sanitizing and even weathering quarantines issued by the schools and district. The sound was recorded with performers standing six feet apart with masks. When the video recording was made, that vocal track was used so that actors were not singing next to one another.

“You can’t see their faces because they’re all masked anyway,” Stanfield said. “That was one great safety thing that we did.

“The kids were really good at it. They don’t argue at all,” Stanfield said. “Honestly we got through the process without transmitting COVID within our group.“

Instead of hindering the production, Stanfield and technical director Jodi Williams turned the changes wrought by the pandemic into a learning experience. Production members spent the entire first semester learning how to do filming, and figuring out the technical aspects of a virtual show. They built upon the program’s successful experiences with “The Revolutionists” early in the year, as well as a radio show broadcast from students’ homes.

Students taking on the extraordinary task of staging the show amidst these challenges were stage manager Ally Vaughn, assistant stage manager Maddie Gwaltney, spotlight operators Laurel Brown, Zach McKinney and Jacara Smith, and technical volunteer Bryn Aehlich, a 2020 Bradford alum.

This was the first time the musical track was synched to the onstage action. In order to perfect the editing process, opening night was delayed just one week.

“Musicals are in generally a little more complex technically than straight shows,” Stanfield said. “It’s been an up and down and sideways process, but we definitely accomplished it.”

For tickets to view “Pippin,” visit the Kenosha Unified School District Fine Arts website.

How to view “Pippin”

  • Where: Online only
  • When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. (and again March 5-7)
  • Tickets: A login code is needed to view the performance. They can be purchased here.