Pippin (1994)

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by Roger O. Hirson and (uncredited) Bob Fosse
October 28-November 5, 1994
St. Marcus Theatre, St. Louis

Pippin – Dan Sattel
Leading Player – Amy Jayne
Charles/Berthe – Kevin Collier
Fastrada – Laura Beard Aeling
Lewis – Leo Schloss
Catherine – Lisa Karpowicz
The Sweet Faced Player – Beck Hunter
The Player with Fire – Jason “Skippy” Kastrup
The Manly Player – Matthew R. Kerns

Director – Scott Miller
Choreographer – Michelle Collier
Production Consultant – Sara Lee Hart
Lighting Designer – Kathleen Mayhew
Assistant Lighting Designer – Renee Sevier
Set Coordinator – Greg Hunsaker
Lighting Technician – Kim Wood
Graphic Design – Tracy Collins

THE BANDPiano – Debbie Bernardoni
Keyboards – Thomas Reed
Percussion – Adam Kopff

“If you like musical theatre that goes for the guts, head for the St. Marcus Theatre . . . where New Line’s Pippin runs.” – Bob Wilcox, The Riverfront Times
“Pippin seems to me to be New Line’s slickest production to date – skilled cast, excellent technical work, and polished vision. . . The pit band is nothing short of outstanding.” – Harry Weber, The Riverfront Times

DIRECTOR’S NOTESStephen Schwartz and Roger Hirson created a pleasant little musical called The Adventures of Pippin in the early 1970s. But after director Bob Fosse was through re-writing it, it was a cynical, sexual, slickly decadent morality play. When Schwartz raised too many objections to Fosse's changes, he was banned from rehearsals. But after it closed on Broadway, Schwartz had his ideas restored to the script and many of Fosse's changes taken back out, for future productions. New Line's production returns to Fosse's original dark vision of Pippin's quest for fulfillment and identity.

Pippin is a young man with no idea what he wants from his life. Luckily, a traveling troupe of players appears who have helped other young men in Pippin's predicament. They offer to play out his life for him – with colored lights, music and dance, comedy and drama – so that he can try things in his search for fulfillment. With the players' help, his quest becomes a roller coaster ride of razzle-dazzle entertainment and seductively dangerous excesses.

What Pippin doesn't realize though, is that the players' only goal is for him to do their Grand Finale. They make sure he fails at everything so that the finale will be his only remaining opportunity to find perfection. But it's not until the big moment arrives that they tell Pippin what he has to do. They want him to get in a box and set himself on fire – “a glorious synthesis of life and death, and life again!” They want him to commit suicide, live on stage.

When Pippin resists, the Leading Player offers the opportunity to the audience. We can do the finale instead of Pippin. She says to us, “If you should decide to do so, we'll be there for you, waiting. Why, we're right inside your heads.”

Up until that point, Pippin is a morality tale with the unpleasant lesson that complete fulfillment doesn't exist. Like John Hinckley and Lee Harvey Oswald in last season's Assassins, Pippin thinks the world owes him happiness. When he can't find it, he's angry, confused, bitter. He's told he has to settle for an average life and the fulfillment of none of his ideals.

But when Leading Player says to us, “Why, we're right inside your heads,” suddenly it's a whole new ballgame. The players are in Pippin's mind. In fact, the whole show is Pippin's fever dream, a hallucination full of the magic he never found in his life, all happening in the moment before he kills himself. His family is populated by perverse stereotypes, his fantasies filled with frightening characters of his own creation. In reality, Pippin has been causing himself to fail at everything throughout the show, and he has been convincing himself to commit suicide.

We wonder why murder and suicide among teenagers continues to increase. Maybe Pippin knows why. We create outrageous expectations for our young people and then sabotage their chances at attaining them, asking them to grow up faster with each generation. We rarely offer them role models and we destroy the ones they have, people like O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Clarence Thomas, even Captain Kirk. We tell them they can have anything they want, but it's not true. As rock star Kurt Cobain discovered recently, when everything else is trashed, all that's left is the Grand Finale.


If you know Scott, you know of his insistence that his actors go “over the top” in their performances. I never really had a problem with that notion until I did Pippin. Scott wanted me to play Pippin like a spoiled-rotten, annoying kid. I would like to repeat loud and clear for those of you that saw Pippin – SCOTT MADE ME DO IT! I have never really fought Scott on any of his directorial decisions, but this one drove me crazy. No matter what I did, it wasn’t big enough or wasn’t “animated” enough. To add fuel to the fire, I had been suckered by Leo Schloss and Scott to quit smoking during the length of our rehearsal schedule and performances, so my voice had a fighting chance at hitting the demanding vocal part. (Side note: I said “suckered” because Leo promised to quit as well so I wouldn’t be going through hell alone, and I later found out that he hadn’t and both of them had been lying to me the whole time. I’ve since forgiven them for this horrible deceit). Anyway, I was a little edgy and Scott kept telling me to “go bigger, go bigger.” It was frustrating to say the least. Finally, I said to myself, “He’s never going to let up until you look like a complete idiot.” With this new realization, I transformed Pippin into the most annoying, self-absorbed human being I could imagine . . . and Scott loved it. You want to get on Scott’s good side? Annoy the heck out of him.
-- Dan Sattel, “Pippin”

Laura Beard Aeling is quite the bohemian. She's a performing artist. She's a visual artist. She's a creative talent. At the time we were doing Pippin, she worked for a company that made large, blow-up, three-dimensional versions of Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream. On the first night, the cast gathered for the initial read-through of the script for Pippin. In addition to the older, crustier veterans of New Line, there were new faces. Matt Kearns, Skippy Kastrup, and Beck Hunter were the young kids of the crowd. Fresh-faced. Impressionable. Wide-eyed. The cast was asked to take turns in sharing their names and something about themselves with everyone. Laura announced that this was her second New Line production and that, “I make designer inflatables.” The three young cast members glanced curiously at each other and then at me. As Laura continued, I said to the rookies, “Sans orifice.” Laura, without taking a breath and in the middle of her sentence turned to me and said, “Philistine,” and went right on with her introduction.
-- Leo Schloss, “Lewis”

I wanted to do Pippin to shut up all the people who were always telling me what a silly, shallow piece of irrelevance it is. I think it’s one of the best of the American musicals, and not just because of Bob Fosse’s original choreography. The more I worked on this show, the more I understood that this is not a show about Charlemagne’s son; it’s a show about a spoiled, aimless college grad trying to find himself in the morally and emotionally barren landscape of modern-day America. Only from that perspective does everything in it make sense. And my other revelation – that the entire show must be happening in Pippin’s head, that in fact he is his own tormentor – seems to be the only way this show works. Yet I’ve never seen anybody else do it that way. Because the original was full of razzle-dazzle, people missed all the red meat in it. It really does work when you let it, when you respect it. Pippin is a rich, complicated, smart piece of theatre about a very real, very flawed central character that addresses some extremely important issues in American life. And I’ve realized, after doing Pippin and other overly maligned shows, that most of the time when people blame their mediocre productions on mediocre material, it’s almost always the production’s fault and not the material’s. I have found again and again, with Pippin, Anyone Can Whistle, Assassins, Passion, Songs for a New World, and Floyd Collins – all shows that have been heavily criticized – that if you give a show your greatest effort, your greatest and deepest thought, and if you always assume a problem is yours and not the show’s, the show will often reveal itself to be the masterpiece only the fanatics knew it was.
– Scott Miller, director

One of my favorite memories of Pippin was due to one of the disadvantages of the St. Marcus Theatre. Because the theatre was in a church basement, the ceiling was fairly low, and because the stage was raised two feet, it was only nine feet from the stage floor to the ceiling. Adding to that, Kevin Collier, who played Charlemagne, was six-foot-eight. So poor Kevin had to really watch for any lights hanging above the stage. In one extended musical scene, “Spread a Little Sunshine,” Kevin had to enter and exit the stage several times. In rehearsals, each time he’d enter, he’d walk onstage and – bam! – slam his forehead right into one of the lights. It happened every night, every entrance during this scene. The first time we were worried if he was hurt; every time after that we’d all giggle like third graders. It was just such a ridiculous sight. (I’m not sure why we never thought about moving the light.) Somehow, he finally learned to avoid it and I don’t think he ever hit that light during a performance.
– Scott Miller, director

Assassins (1994)

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman
June 17-25, 1994
St. Marcus Theatre, St. Louis 

This was the first of New Line's three productions of the show, followed by productions in 1998 and 2008.

The Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald – Dan Carter
John Wilkes Booth – Anthony Mullin
Charles Guiteau – Gary Cox
Leon Czolgosz – Kevin Collier
Giuseppe Zangara – Dan Sattel
Samuel Byck – Joe Blackerby
Sara Jane Moore – Amy Jayne
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme – Johanna Schloss
John Hinckley – Andrew Nowak
The Proprietor – Leo Schloss
Emma Goldman – Laura Beard Aeling
Michelle Laflen
Andy Wolterman

Directors – Scott Miller and Steve Kutheis
Music Director – Scott Miller
Set and Props Coordinator – Greg Hunsaker
Lighting Designer – Steven P. Dohrmann
Sound Designer – Greg Rosebrock
Graphic Designer – Tracy Collins

Piano – Debbie Bernardoni
Keyboards – Scott Miller
Percussion – Luis Fern├índez

“A surprisingly effective theater piece, in spite of, or perhaps because of, its unusual subject matter. The current production by the New Line Theatre brings out the best the show has to offer. . . The disparate elements of the show come together in large part because of the teamwork of the New Line cast. Individually, the performers all have fine moments, but they are at their best in what they do together.” – Gerry Kowarsky, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“New Line Theatre’s current production at the St. Marcus Theatre shores up the unity of this analysis of presidential assassins. . . Assassins is ambitious, fascinating work.” – Bob Wilcox, The Riverfront Times

“Anyone who tackles any Sondheim show and succeeds in entertaining without embarrassing themselves is a worthy force. But this group seems to go beyond that and strives for perfection in every aspect.” – Steve Allen, KFUO-FM

Assassins is a musical character study of the men and women who have tried to kill U.S. presidents, and of the reasons, obsessions, and protests that led each of them to this extreme act. Some did it for political reasons, others for personal reasons, others still because they were genuinely crazy.

The show's creators don't ask you to sympathize with the assassins, only to spend some time with them and realize that they are real and complicated people – much more than faceless “assassins.” They are as much a product of their times and of our American society as any one of us. When we wonder why kids are killing each other on our streets, we would do well to listen to these nine Americans. Their feelings of impotence, powerlessness, and unfulfilled dreams are the feelings so many of us experience today. The message that any one of us could become one of the characters onstage is unsettling but truer than we might want to believe.

This is an unusual musical not just because of its subject matter, but also because of its structure. In many ways, it's more a revue than a traditional musical, a revue of songs and scenes ricocheting back and forth through American history. Some are outrageously funny, some frightening, some deeply moving; like America, Assassins is a melting pot.

Strolling through it all is a Balladeer, the personification of the stories, myths, and songs that we pass down generation to generation. Composer Stephen Sondheim and playwright John Weidman propose that many of these assassins were inspired by the stories of those who went before them. To dramatize this, John Wilkes Booth actually suggests to Zangara in 1933 and Oswald in 1963 that they kill the president. The shooting gallery proprietor who sells guns to the assassins in the opening scene perhaps represents a country where easy access to guns and a too-hyped American Dream makes these nine people see only one alternative to their problems.

Booth and the other assassins sing, “Everybody's got the right to be happy.” They believe that their guaranteed right to the pursuit of happiness also guarantees them the right to attain that happiness – which is something altogether different. When the mythic American Dream eludes them, they feel cheated, ignored, stepped on.

Earl Warren said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn.” We'd like to think that isn't true. We think that by understanding these nine people, we may be better equipped to help others like them – before they become killers.

So enjoy the show, and when the assassins ask you in the song, “Another National Anthem,” to join them, imagine just for a moment the fame, the attention, the chance to change the world. And then be thankful that the pressures of our modern world haven't pushed you to that extreme. Yet.

Read director Scott Miller's background and analysis essay about Assassins.

REMEMBERING ASSASSINS Anthony Mullins took on the role of John Wilkes Booth in the original New Line production of Assassins. Anthony is a gentleman of English descent and his accent still reflects his heritage, although he was attempting to affect a southern drawl. During early rehearsals, it's important to develop a bond with your cast mates, some commonality that you can share. In the case of the cast of Assassins, the first common thing discovered was a good sense of humor. Anthony was rehearsing a very intense scene in which his vocal tone and pitch were quite fevered. Anthony himself was quite fevered toward the end of the production (but that's another story – he did go on, as he himself was wont to say). In any case the balance of the cast sat in the house watching and listening. Anthony, in an impassioned moment and in his best “southern” accent, exclaimed, “It shahns so braht, yoo got ta shae yo ahss!” There was silence in the house. Then exchanged looks. Then, one of the cast in the house said, “Did he just say ‘it shines so bright you've got to shave your ass?’ ” Everyone exploded in laughter. Later, it was discovered that the line was, “It shines so bright, you've got to shade your eyes.”
-- Leo Schloss, “Proprietor”

One of the more colorful members of the cast was Michelle Laflen. Assassins is a very intense show, and as opening night approached, the cast was concerned about their ability to impart the deep emotional intricacies to the audience. Luckily, Michelle's boyfriend Kenny started coming to rehearsals about a week before the show opened. You see, when you've been through a script fifty times, it's difficult to judge its impact. Having a new person experience the production always brings a fresh perspective. Well, almost always. One night, at the conclusion of the rehearsal and the subsequent (and generally lengthy) notes, I hopped down off the stage and began to look for my things to gather before leaving: car keys, jacket, script. My script was missing. I said, “Hey, does anybody know where my script is?” Michelle responded, “Oh Kenny has it. I think he's in the bathroom.” I said, “He can keep it.” But I digress. As the cast gathered in the green room before the final dress rehearsal, Michelle spoke up: “Hey, everybody. I just wanted to let you know the show is really great. Kenny said so. He's never emotional, but last night he got choked up watching rehearsal.” Oh great. We know we're a success gang – Kenny wept.
-- Leo Schloss, “Proprietor”

During the Copland-esque singing of “Big Bill,” Kevin Collier as Leon Czolgosz waited in line to meet President William McKinley at the Great Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. The line of folks (Leo, Michele, Laura, and that one boy) extended downstage from the invisible President upstage to Czolgosz, who was waiting not to shake the President’s hand, but to assassinate him. Tech week came, and Kevin and the other gun-totin’ assassins were given starter pistols to use. They created a pretty good bang when they went off. For the McKinley assassination, Kevin and his gun were to make it to the head of the line for the climax of the song when Czolgosz, on an abrupt musical caesura, would shoot the President. But it never failed—or rather, it always did. During every dress/tech, Kevin moved to the head of the line, aimed the gun towards the audience (where the invisible McKinley stood), and pulled the trigger. Nothing. The first couple times were funny. But when it happened repeatedly—the gun working perfectly before the rehearsal, then not working at such a crucial moment—well, let’s just say Kevin’s goddammits and other choice expletives became more and more explosive. And from the point of view of the success of the moment in the show, it certainly made all of us nervous. However, most of us stifled peals of laughter when we considered the possibility of rewriting the show—and American history--so that Leon Czolgosz, instead of assassinating William McKinley, just looked at him, real mean-like, and gave him a good cussin’ out.
--Johanna Schloss, “Squeaky”

The first time I directed Assassins was the greatest thrill of my life. It was the first time I had directed a show that was truly a masterpiece, the first time I really submerged myself fully into a show, lived it, slept it, thought about nothing else. We had a very talented cast and it turned out so well. Even my mother, who I expected to hate it, found it compelling and mesmerizing. It was the first step in her conversion to the person who now prefers Floyd Collins and The Cradle Will Rock to Brigadoon and Hello, Dolly. Assassins is the bravest show ever written, a masterpiece of subtlety, of characterization, of confrontation, of psychology, of pure, brazen theatricality. It was terribly disturbing to watch and it unnerved each audience through its stubborn refusal to judge these assassins, to take the easy, safe road. It let each assassin speak for him- or herself. Some of them were clearly crazy, but some of them were clearly not – and that was the most disturbing thing of all. The message of Assassins is that the people who try to kill presidents are more like you and me than we’d like to believe. It’s a message most people don’t want to hear, but it’s one everyone should hear. Ultimately it thrilled audiences every night and was New Line’s first genuine triumph, as if our little company had finally grown to full maturity. It was a turning point for New Line and for me, both artistically and personally. The other reason Assassins was special to me, personally, is that early in the rehearsal process, my position at my “real job” was eliminated and I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life. My search for a new job was admittedly half-hearted because I discovered the incredible joy of dedicating my time fully to a show. No more did my job get in the way. No more did I have to work on the show only after work. Now it was my work. This was when I realized I was meant to be a freelancer. And I haven’t had a traditional desk job since then. One more note. I honestly believe that every high school in America should be forced to produce Assassins every four years. With gun violence in our schools reaching epidemic proportions, we must try to understand why people get angry, why they feel left out by the American Dream, why a gun makes them feel empowered – all issues addressed eloquently and intelligently by Assassins. This is the one show that could start a dialogue that might lead us to some real answers.
-- Scott Miller, director

Breraking Out in Harmony (1994)

a world premiere
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Scott Miller
March 18-26, 1994
New City School Theatre, St. Louis

Tucker Goodman – Kent Hobson
Steven Goodman – Kevin Collier
Anne Goodman – Dena O’Malley
Darcy Bowles – Kat Smith
Sherman Bowles – Michael Shreves
Lydia Bowles – Kim Wolterman
Bash Crockett – Dan Sattel
Trish Young – Amy Jayne
Marge Blodgett – Kinsella Berry
Christy Cable
Whitney Furlow
Curtis Singleton

THE ARTISTIC STAFFDirector – Scott Miller
Production Consultant – Sara Lee Hart
Lighting Designer – Steven P. Dohrmann
Stage Manager – Amy Lanning
Set Coordinator – Kevin Collier
Logo Design – Steve Kutheis

THE BANDPiano – Chris Hegarty
Percussion – Adam Kopff

“There are a lot of truths – and a lot of questions – in Breaking Out in Harmony. . . Miller has dealt with a subject that continues to make news and cause controversy. . . There are many problems in the New Line Theatre production, but the drama has sufficient backbone to stand upright and deliver its message. . . Despite the shortcomings, Miller has written a musical that is ‘about something,’ and about something important too. It’s worth seeing, thinking about, and most important, acting on.” – Joe Pollack, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Some of Breaking Out’s songs are rousers.” – Harry Weber, The Riverfront Times

In this new musical, three members of the school board of the fictional Harmony, Missouri school district break into their high school library after hours and remove eleven “objectionable” books. Their teenage children find out and launch a protest (one of the kids even figures out how to turn the issue into a profit-making venture), and the controversy divides the community. Despite the students' protests, the board votes officially to keep the books off the shelves, so the students go to the local ACLU for help. The actual case on which the show is based, Pico v. Island Trees, went on for seven years and ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

But this is not an isolated case. In fact, since Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, censorship cases have been increasing dramatically every year. Parents continue to demand the removal of everything from Dr. Seuss and Stephen King to the Bible. An organization in Washington, D.C. called People for the American Way tracks the hundreds of challenges to materials in schools each year. Nearly half of the challenges are successful.

But our show isn't only about censorship. The other big issue in Breaking Out in Harmony is the question of when a child is old enough to make his own way in the world. The students believe that by age 17 they can make mature decisions for themselves. Yet with the continuing increase of guns and drugs among American teenagers, their parents believe they have good cause to worry about their children and about the many influences on their children's attitudes. Who can honestly say they have nothing to worry about?

Breaking Out in Harmony doesn't try to answer these questions. It merely explores the fears and motivations behind the people on both sides of these very complex issues. In an increasingly dangerous world, parents find it more and more difficult to stop protecting their children. And in the midst of an information explosion, teenagers see so many things they want to explore and discover, and they don't want their parents holding them back. Unfortunately, a case like this one puts the concerns of parents and their children into direct conflict.

The New York Times said about the original case, “The controversy . . . points directly to fundamental questions about the nature of community in modern American society.” One of the judges ruling on the case wrote, “The use of governmental power to condemn a book touches the central nervous system of the first amendment.” And the debate rages on today, over everything from Madonna's book, Sex, to the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Thank you for joining us tonight for this roller-coaster ride through the American education system, the American family, and the U.S. Constitution. We hope you enjoy yourselves, and we hope you find lots of things to talk about on the drive home.

I’ll never forget one performance during Breaking Out in Harmony. One of the leading women was very difficult to work with, and one night, an hour before a performance, she showed up with her parents and demanded free tickets for them. Now, we didn't give actors free tickets for family members. But this actress told me that either I give her free tickets or she’d quit the show right then. (Being a small company, we did not have understudies.) I didn’t see how I could give her tickets without giving all the other actors tickets, which would kill our ticket sales. So I stood my ground and refused. She stormed out of the theatre screaming at me that she quit. The cast went crazy. Would she come back? Was she really quitting? I calmly assured everyone that she would be back, secretly terrified that she would not. Finally, she returned to the dressing room about four minutes before curtain and put on her make-up and costume quickly without saying a word to anyone. She did the show and finished the run, though she never said another word to me. Since that incident, I’ve become very attuned to “attitude,” and if an actor shows even the hint of attitude in auditions, I won’t even consider them. I don’t ever need to go through that again.
– Scott Miller, author and director

Breaking Out in Harmony taught me a really big, important lesson about writing – that conclusions belong in the audience. Good theatre never tells an audience what to think. It presents a story, issues, questions, and then asks the audience to think about it and come up with their own answers and draw their own conclusions. But in Harmony I told the audience exactly what I thought they were supposed to think in the finale, and though the finale was a pretty good song, it sort of emasculated the show. I was starting to feel good about myself as a writer and, without realizing it, I got pretentious and self-righteous. It hurt the show. But I learned my lesson. I hope.
-- Scott Miller, author and director