Stevenson students stage unique, meaningful musical
Sydney Canon (left to right), Jen Baker, Danielle Freeman and David Wood rehearse a scene Oct. 29 from Stevenson High School's fall play Pippin. The cast and costumer designed and the unique armor. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 8, 2012 2:34PM
LINCOLNSHIRE — The battle scene progressed from a time period of the past, through the present and into the future, but the disconcerting part did not begin until the co-ed, armor-clad kick line took to the stage.
“And then the absurdity happens afterward,” said Aliceson Hacket-Rubel, the costume designer for Stevenson High School’s production of the Broadway musical Pippin.
The SHS cast and crew brought that tale, of the search for meaning in life, to the community last weekend, likely leaving the crowd boggled by the seeming absurdity of the armored suits the warriors wore in that scene.
For audience members who may still be wondering, those suits were indeed made out of plastic coins, Popsicle sticks, keys, Duct tape and other, odder additives.
“I thought I could make them look like scales,” sophomore Ray Weisz said of her actor’s helmet and breastplate, which she covered in spoons. “I didn’t know how much work it would be.”
“It’s just supposed to look like a mishmash,” junior Rachel Canter said of her Duct tape creation.
Pippin is a play within a play — the main characters are actors themselves, speaking directly to their real audience to introduce them to their own show, about a boy named Pippin searching for purpose in eighth-century England. One of the many situations that mission sends him into is a surreal battle sequence, which both the original creators in the 1970s and SHS theater director Cynthia Lynch wanted to use to symbolize the futility of war.
SHS’s production put a new twist on that scene, however. The combatants would be costumed in a wide array of battle garb from throughout history, further stressing the play’s message that war has been fruitless in every era.
Thus, the 10 costumers in the crew had to use Google Images and other resources to study military uniforms from multiple time periods, from as early as the Han Dynasty of ancient China up to World War II. The more modern combatants, including the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, still fight with swords instead of firearms, though.
Hacket-Rubel first provided the students with foam vests, then let them find creative ways to express what those soldiers would have looked like if dressed in, say, all zippers.
They found toy coins on the SHS stage, left over from a previous play. They used keys that sophomore Chris Mosley borrowed from his grandmother.
Sophomore Linsey Nowack built her Han armor with Popsicle sticks, spray-painted it silver, and added keys from Mosley’s grandma.
Hacket-Rubel said the decision for homemade armor was easy: the play’s budget. She said the crew proved itself with costume projects for past plays, so she had no trouble handing them an assignment that they worked on regularly since September.
“It was interesting, with the direction that Mrs. Lynch wanted to show,” Hacket-Rubel said.