By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – While rehearsing in a hot church hall in Marlborough, the directors, producers and actors of the Ghost Light Players are using their own experiences to bring to life their upcoming production of “Pippin.”
The Ghost Light Players, a Marlborough-based community theater troupe, began rehearsals for “Pippin” in June for the August show. As the group acts out the story of a medieval prince trying to find his place in the world, they are doing so with very few costumes or props. Instead, they are putting their own emotions and memories behind their songs and dances.
“A lot of people do their job and then they come here to play,” explained co-director and choreographer Michelle Leibowitz. “This is their happy place. This is where they get to have fun. I see a lot of parallels between what Pippin is going through and what the actors are trying to find for themselves.”
Kat Alix-Gaudreau, Leibowitz’s partner in directing, has encouraged her actors to bring themselves and their own personalities into the scenes they are creating. Alix-Gaudreau has directed shows with the Ghost Light Players in the past and has worked to keep “Pippin” like her past shows – simple and focused on the actors themselves.
“Kat is wonderful. She loves to get as many people giving input as possible,” Leibowitz said. “The actors and the production staff [get involved.] It’s not all about her being in charge. It’s about what’s best for the show.”
Though the cast spans a wide range of ages, professions, and provenances, Jeff Dodd, an actor portraying the character of “Lewis,” noted that they are still able to connect with the message of “Pippin” and walk away from rehearsals with the sense of belonging that the show’s title character seeks.
“This group is proof that it’s not necessarily the space that you’re working with as much as it is the people that you’re working with,” Dodd said. “Working with people that are coming together for the same thing is powerful.”
Leibowitz has been involved with four shows with the Ghost Light Players since its formation in 2011. Dodd performed in “Urinetown” last year and has returned to perform in “Pippin.” Leibowitz and Dodd agree that, in recent years, the troupe itself has grown.
“I think with each new audition process, we get more and more involvement within the community,” Dodd said. “Through word of mouth, through social networking, or any other method, it is getting out there how good this group is really becoming.”
Thirty-seven actors auditioned for roles in “Pippin” this spring. Of them, 14 were cast. Beyond the actors themselves, Producer Elizabeth Chirico said that the Ghost Light Players now regularly sell out their shows at First Church in Marlborough.
As it has grown, the troupe has retained the small casts that made it popular when it was created in 2011. The casts are friendly and supportive. At one point during a rehearsal, Michael Conway, who plays “Pippin,” belted the lyrics of “Corner of the Sky” while Alix-Gaudreau critiqued his performance. The rest of the cast encircled the performance space which was marked in tape on the floor. Once Conway finished the song, his face bright red from singing, the entire cast cheered and clapped.
Earlier in Conway’s song, Ghost Light Players Musical Director David Wright reacted to the melancholy lyrics by saying, “Everyone fits but Pippin!” As Leibowitz, Dodd and Chirico noted, this show helps its own cast make that statement true.
“For some, this is their first time in ‘Pippin’ and the message of ‘Pippin’ is that it’s all about finding yourself,” Chirico said. “Who am I? What am I? What am I here to do? ‘Pippin’ kind of answers those questions.”
“Pippin” will be performed at 8 p.m. Aug. 5-6 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Black Box Theater at St. Mark’s School, 25 Marlboro Road, in Southborough.