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By Danielle Drown
On April 13, 2012

When the Twilight Players take the stage to perform "Pippin," there will be a generation of ghosts sitting in the audience and a nostalgic feeling in the air. It has been 34 years since the music from "Pippin" filled the Alexander Twilight Theatre.

The 1978 director was Phil Anderson, former head of LSC's theater department.

"When we were suddenly confronted with the rights to do 'Pippin', it hadn't been released yet and we were in the middle of planning and about to go into rehearsals for 'Hello Dolly'," said Anderson. "We were informed that 'Pippin' was available and we leaped at the chance, got the rights to do it, and we were the first amateur production of 'Pippin' in the country. I don't know how we found out, but the rights to 'Pippin' became available and we grabbed the opportunity."

The current director of "Pippin" is Gianna Fregosi, instructor of theater at Lyndon for the last two years. She says that this year's group has a timely advantage over the original production.

"We also get to enjoy the benefit that this show has been around for 30 plus years and it's one of those shows where people who love it will travel just about anywhere to see it," says Fregosi. "Pippin fans are like Grateful Dead fans; there's such a love for this show."

In the musical, Pippin is the son of King Charlemagne. The story depicts Pippin's quest for happiness which involves killing his father, becoming king, losing the crown and eventually, falling in love.

About 25 former theater and "Pippin" cast members plan to attend the Saturday performance of the musical.  Alumni will be coming from as far away as Kansas and Colorado.

Anderson has stayed in close contact with about 20 of the students from the original cast. The original production required the involvement of 25-30 people. Three people have since died and one, the original Pippin, Paul Hopkins, continues his 20 year fight with cancer.

Jenny Harris was a chorus member in the original production of "Pippin" and is now an Alumni development officer for Lyndon. Harris recalls the excitement about the play, but didn't pay much attention to it at the time.

"The whole college was pretty involved with the production happening. I remember people coming in and wanting to be aware of what was happening," said Harris. "There was a big excitement about that [the license], but I wasn't totally aware of it at the time, I don't think. When I've talked to people since then, I was made aware of how big a deal it was at the time."

The Twilight Players are a campus club. Students pitch the idea of shows they want to perform and then vote on the options collectively. This year's production of "Pippin" was suggested with the thought of recognizing its history at Lyndon and the alumni (previously) involved.

This year, Daniel Haycook, a senior liberal studies major, is playing the character of Pippin. Haycook believes that the original cast will be able to relate to this year's version of the musical.

"The historical twist that we're taking is the time that the original cast was living through so it's going to be interesting to see their reaction," said Haycook.

Anderson (the original director) said a different director, calls for a different, final product.

"Theater is an interpretive art so there's many ways to envision a particular production," said Anderson. "I'm very curious to know how they're going to do it. You can take one play and you can put it in the hands of a dozen different directors, and you'll get a dozen different ways to stage and visualize that dramatic piece."

Harris said that the storyline of the production of Pippin, in the 70s, reflected the feeling of the era for the college students of the time.

"It was kind of a different time then. We had this combination of being really serious about theater and about the show and about it being exactly right. Everybody wanted it to be just perfect," said Harris (about the LSC theatre group at the time). "In the 70s, it was the end of the hippie, free love, generation. There was something about the theme of the show itself. It was about leaving your worries and realizing that there was magic to do. You had the capacity to create this magical illusion. I think students now are more serious sooner about life, than we were. We weren't too worried about things in general. We lived for the moment. You could really relate to the show."

Fregosi (this year's director) says that this production will be based on the 1970s period that "Pippin" was originally written in. They are taking an approach different from the original script set in a medieval time.

"The thing that really struck me about this show is it is definitely a product of its era. It definitely screams 1970s and you can't escape that," says Fregosi. "It's not going to be so much a hippie look as it's going to be 70s, arty, more modern and clean."

(In terms of props and costumes) Fregosi is trading in the swords and medieval garb of the original script and replacing them with rifles and military uniforms.

"The 70s did a lot of musicals that broke ground as far as challenging what the standard ideas of musicals were," she says. "Pippin" was originally written without an overture and intermission and Fregosi will stick to that style. "We're going for more of a 20th century look."

Pat Webster was a chorus member from the original cast of "Pippin". She remembers the costume production being inventive and detail-oriented.

"The color scheme for costumes was in the lighter range - cream, ivory, pale yellow, etc. Many fabrics were hand-dyed with tea to give a soft, mellow quality. Old laces, chiffons, velvets, corduroys, and the like made for some beautifully textured costume pieces," she said.

Despite having a low budget for costumes, Anderson recalls the costume production for LSC's "Pippin" earning national recognition in a write-up in Theater Crafts magazine.  

At the time that the original cast of "Pippin" was preparing for their performance, they were more than theater club members; they were students of the theater department, headed by Anderson and his wife Cathy 'Guss' Anderson.

Anderson explained that the theater department broke off from the English Department around 1973 and became the department of Theater and Interpretive Arts.

Keith Chamberlin was working for the college's media department at the time of the original production of "Pippin" and was assigned the job of doing publicity photography, some for the musical. He is now the director of communications and marketing.

 "We had an academic department in theater and it was very active. We had really amazing people working in that department and Phil and his wife, 'Guss', Anderson did very ambitious stuff," said Chamberlin. "A number of people ended up majoring in theater just because it was such a dynamic and energetic place to be."

The department was intact from 1973 until 1980. It converged with TVS and dissolved when the Andersons left, after Kate Anderson was hired at Kansas State University. The Andersons' absence was not the only reason for the changes being made to the theater department. The VSC decided to merge programs.

"They consolidated majors at different campuses based on an overarching concept of the kinds of programs those colleges were going to be offering," said Chamberlin. "Johnson became the Fine Arts campus. This was a controversial thing at the time when these departments all shifted."

"The theater program moving to Johnson was part of that whole process in the late 70's and early 80's of realigning the campuses so that there was less duplication. It naturally created a lot of bad feelings because the people who worked in that department were incredibly dynamic and interesting, great people."

Along with the Twilight Players club, theater is also offered at Lyndon in the form of a minor. Students also have the option of receiving elective credits if they are stage directing or are a member of the cast, playing a leading role.

"It's amazing to have so many talented students and it's even more amazing given the fact that we have no theater major here," said Fregosi.

Chamberlin stated that the 1978 cast had a lot more advantages because of the theater department.

"When you have an academic department that's devoted to just doing this, they have resources at their disposal," said Chamberlin. "This is really just an extracurricular activity for this group. They're not going to have the same resources at their disposal so I think it's going to be more challenging for them. They've got a lot of heart and soul and that's what an awful lot of this is about:  heart, soul and desire."

Some would argue just the opposite.

"Because we're a club and because we're all doing it for the pure enjoyment, I think that is an advantage that we have. It's a passion of all of ours to some extent so we push ourselves harder," said Haycook, playing Pippin in this year's performance. "I know the Twilight Players, back then, were very close knit and very successful and I think we're gaining that ground again. We're growing each year and pushing ourselves more each year and I think we're reaching that point again in Twilight history."


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