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Actors Asked to Do Double Duty In ‘Pippin’

San Marino High School Drama Director Blake Williams isn’t afraid to push the envelope every now and then, but her plan for the upcoming musical production of ‘Pippin’ is cheeky even by her own standards.

Williams has decided to assign multiple roles to three of her top performers, reconstructing the traditional casting model of one of Broadway’s most popular and successful musicals.

Senior Ava Hargett and juniors Ariana Prappas and Erik Olson will each play two major parts in the production.

“Everyone who plays a part doubles up in this show,” said Williams. “When you have people this talented, you would lose them for a large portion of the production if you assign them just one role. I wanted to share the wealth. And it actually works out very well.”

Traditionally hitting the Neher Auditorium stage much later in the semester, scheduling changes forced an abbreviated ramp-up to the annual spring musical and the cast began rehearsals just days after the closing of the fall play – ‘Alice, An Original Re-telling of A Classic Tale’ – which ran in mid-October. ‘Pippin’ opens on Friday, January 27, which has led to an assembly line-like atmosphere.

“I really wanted to do this,” said Williams of her unique casting method. “I have changed the concept and created a power struggle, which sort of raises the stakes.”

A senior, Ava Hargett will be cast as both the Lead Player and Catherine in ‘Pippin.’ She began performing in the theater when she was 7 years old in a summer camp production of ‘The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf,’ where she played the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

“I’ve pretty much been doing shows since,” she said. “My favorite part I have ever played is Alice in last semester’s production of ‘Alice.’ It was definitely a challenge, but it was more rewarding than I ever could’ve imagined. The part holds special meaning for me because I played the same role in a musical version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as a fifth grader, so it was definitely fun to revisit the character.”

Ava told The Tribune that the unique casting method for Pippin’ “presents all three of us with different challenges.”

“For me, I’ve been able to work on developing a contrast between one character who is very presentational, and another who becomes very genuine after she meets Pippin,” said Ava, whose favorite actor is Leonardo DiCaprio. “I think I speak for all three of us when I say that this show is unlike anything we’ve ever attempted before, and we’re beyond excited for the community to see it.”

Junior Ariana Prappas began her acting career in the 6th grade when she played Jojo in a production of ‘Seussical.’

“I had done a lot of singing but that was the first time I had an actual acting role,” she said.

Last year, she produced an outstanding turn as the Red Queen in ‘Alice,’ a part she lists as her favorite.

“It was so interesting to create a character that everyone was supposed to hate,” Ariana told The Tribune. “I had to justify all of the insane and terrible things she does and make her a real person. Getting that depth with such an iconic villain was an amazing challenge and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Ariana admires actress Erika Henningsen.

“She isn’t very well known, but I saw her in ‘Les Miserables’ on Broadway as Fantine and her performance was one of the most moving I have ever seen,” Ariana added. “She reminded me of how passionate I am about the art.”

She also told The Tribune that the most difficult challenge in playing two different roles in ‘Pippin’ is “making sure they are different enough to be distinct on stage.”

“I cannot put any of my Lead Player character into Fastrada because it would confuse the audience and take away from the overall story,” she said. “Everything about the two characters must be different; my hand gestures, my voice, and even the way I walk.”

Standing well over six feet, junior Erik Olson was an obvious choice to play Charlemagne, who was said to be as tall as 6’4” in an age where the average male was about 5’6.” Erik will also do double duty as the Lead Player.

He began his acting career in elementary school as a member of the ensemble in a community theater production of ‘High School Musical.’ Later castings in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Singin’ In the Rain’ cemented his love for the stage and he moved on to ‘Suessical, ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Pirates of Penzance.’

At SMHS, Erik has appeared in ‘A Chorus Line,’ ‘The Addams Family’ (where his older brother Chris gave an unforgettable performance as Lurch), ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and ‘Alice,’ where his interpretation of The Cheshire Cat had audience gasping in awe.

“That was probably my favorite role because it stretched my abilities and forced me to encompass a more serious character than I usually play,” said Erik, who admires Meryl Streep. “The most challenging part of having to play two different roles is diversifying the characters so that my intentions and emotions are not the same for both.”

“It is rare if you have one student who can sing, dance and act at such a high level and to have three at the same time defies the odds,” said Williams of her talented trio. “I think the community will enjoy seeing what they can do on stage.”

‘Pippin’ comes to the Neher Auditorium stage for six shows on January 27 and 28 and February 2, 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. A Sunday matinee will be presented on January 29 at 2:00 p.m. For a ticket order form, please go to sanmarinohs.org and then to ‘Arts.’ Contains mature subject matter.


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