Every year, The Dolphin Show puts on what they say is the largest student-produced musical in the country. To ensure that such a massive production sets sail smoothly, they need lots and lots of hands on deck.
In addition to traditional theatre positions, this year’s production of Pippin had folks lending a hand in new jobs in order to work around obstacles caused by COVID-19. Communication first-year Kay Cui found out about her role through word-of-mouth.
“I was working on team music for Waa-Mu, and my team leader Cameron asked me if I was interested in helping out for Pippin,” Cui said. “It was mainly just lining up vocal tracks for them. So I said ‘Okay,’ and I helped them out for a little bit.”
During this remote school year, The Dolphin Show attracted people looking to make connections with the theatre community despite being far from campus, like Weinberg first-year Monica Williams.
“It seemed like a great way to meet people because it was also in the fall when I was living at home. So I was just really excited, and the fact that it's a big musical was really cool,” said Williams, who worked as a props assistant in the show.
Communication first-year Katrina Li, a marketing assistant for the show, agreed with Williams about her motivations for joining.
“I really wanted to be part of the theatre community at Northwestern, especially since that's one of the reasons why I came here,” Li said.
For Communication third-year Liam Oh, who plays Pippin, being a part of the show was a choice he felt he couldn’t pass up.
“Pippin holds a very special place in my heart, like personally, because it was ... the first musical that I really fell in love with when I was like five years old,” Oh said. “‘Corner of the Sky’ was the first song that I ever learned how to sing. So I felt like I couldn't pass up. It was a little bit of a full circle moment. I have a very strong sentimental attachment to this show.”
What is Pippin about? Without giving too much away, some Dolphin Show team members attempted to answer that very question.
Maddie Burton (actor): Yeah. Pippin is about a boy named Pippin ….
Charlotte Varnes (website and newsletter director): ... a boy who thinks that he needs to do truly extraordinary things to make his way in the world. But Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist, kind of wanted to show us that it's more in the journey, that it is about the destination …
Kay Cui (music assistant): No clue! I have heard of the show before, I’ve never watched it, I’ve never read a synopsis for it ... there's a song I edited called "Theo's Corner" so there's probably a corner and a character named Theo involved.
Katrina Li (marketing assistant): It's all about, like, finding your own potential, finding your corner of the sky, as we call it.
Tyler Felson (trumpet): There's a prince no, not a prince. There's a royal son or whatever …
Liam Oh (actor): The son of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman emperor, but also kind of not …
Tyler Felson (trumpet): And he meets a woman. Who has a kid. And. Yeah.
Emily Somé (lead player): Pippin is a story of a young man trying to find his purpose in the world, and forces trying to guide him towards a certain decision, where he needs to make the big decision at the end where his path will lead him.
It’s clear to the cast and crew that being a part of the production this year in particular means making theatre during a pretty momentous year for the university.
“It's just very exciting being a part of Northwestern history. It's obviously been a huge part of Northwestern as a school.” Medill first-year Charlotte Varnes said. “It's our 50 years out of the pool, because it actually started as a swimming team fundraiser. So it's been very cool, like being a part of such a historical year and getting to help and advertise for 50 years out of the pool.”
Communication senior Maddie Burton said Pippin is a must-watch for a Northwestern audience.
“I think Pippin is really the story of a Northwestern student … I think that we are constantly trying things and trying so hard to find this big fulfilling moment that will make us feel like we have done something productive with our lives," Burton said. "We're really bad at saying no to things. And it isn't until Pippin does actually say the word ‘no’ that he does find happiness. And so I think it's a good sort of Northwestern students specific lesson.”
If nothing else, the Dolphin Show offers an opportunity to support people that have worked hard to put on a show in ‘these unprecedented times.’
“It has to be appreciated how much has gone into this production, you know, like … working around university guidelines to get to the point of being able to film in the capacity that they did,” said Communication third-year Tyler Felson, who covered the trumpet book. “Also my roommate's in it, so watch it for him.”
Oh (who plays Pippin, but more importantly is Felson's roommate) concluded, “I think that Pippin is the story of someone who's very lost ... And I think that we all feel a little lost sometimes ... but it's about someone who keeps on trying,” Oh said. “If anything, it's just nice to be able to watch some people put on a play for the first time. That sounds kind of simple, but also a lot a lot went into it. So I hope people come and just watch people doing the theatre thing.”
“It's the first in-person theatre thing happening since the shutdown and the lockdown from COVID-19,” Burton said. “It's sort of a Renaissance, we're coming back and we're doing things better than ever.”
*Thumbnail courtesy of The Dolphin Show