Well, it’s about us.
People. Humans. Actors.
All three terms are synonymous, but mainly people that call themselves actors. That identify as actors. The people who leave their day job, drive across town, and work for free for 3-4 extra hours a night. We’re desperate, we’re fiending — we need to get on stage. We need to do that thing. That thing, that art, our art.
This is a show about drug-fiends. Art-fiends. They hate it, but they need it. Broken pieces, broken things, broken beings.
“We’re actors–we’re the opposite of people!”
-Tom Stoppard / Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
But they can’t do it alone. They need an audience. And they need a main character. The player chosen to fill the role of Pippin is always referred to as the ‘newest member’ of the troupe, a recent addition. Later in the show, Catherine remarks that ‘He touched my hand. They’ve never done that before.” How many Pippins has this troupe chewed up?
They lead him and the audience to the central question of the show. A life dedicated purely to art, seeking the ever-elusive unicorn called Perfection? Or a life dedicated to someone else, to something forever Imperfect?
Will you Serve, or will you Destroy? There it is again! [Sorry, literary sidebar. I’ve been noticing this binary in a lot of my storytelling — interesting that it’s here too, in one of my favorite shows.]
I’m most intrigued by the ‘new’ ending of the show.
In the original Broadway edition the show ends with Pippin refusing the temptation of the Leading Player, and remaining alone on stage with Catherine and Theo. The show ends anticlimactically with the famous line ‘Trapped, but happy. What did you expect for the end of a musical comedy? Ta da!’
The audience is left feeling weird and confused, which I like — but the show clearly leaves us with the belief that Pippin made the right choice, and will find true satisfaction in a less extraordinary life.
But in the newer edition, an alternate ending has appeared. Pippin still refuses the temptation, but as the players slink off into the ether, the young boy Theo calls them back, echoing Pippin’s Corner of the Sky.
So, what is the audience supposed to feel now? Other than vaguely more pleased, because the show ends with a song? Is the show trying to validate both choices? Or are they simply suggesting that Pippin makes the mature choice, and that there will always be stupid kids coming along to chase the dream for you?
Ha. Or am I just projecting way more meaning into this piece then it can truly support? It wouldn’t be the first time? Pippin is definitely a ‘problem show’. It doesn’t quite work, the pieces don’t really line up the proper way to be a perfect allegory. Strange artifacts of its many revisions linger, laden with potential meaning but ultimately dropping the whole thing in your lap at the end.
So, to return in limping fashion to the initial question. What is Pippin about? Well…things? A lot of things?
Can I get back to you on that?