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Working Magic With Pippin
by Scott Miller

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One of the problems with having movie or video versions of shows available is that people tend to imitate performances without understanding why choices were made in the first place. The role of Pippin demands re-examination, bearing in mind the framing device already discussed. If this is all in his mind, he's not a real stable guy, and with very little self- knowledge. He must be intelligent or he wouldn't be asking these existential questions to begin with, but he's also demanding, childish, selfish, moody, and most significantly, suicidal. Many people in the audience will ask why they should feel sorry for him; he's a rich, educated, white male. What's he got to complain about? It's an important question to consider.

He's also very passive; throughout most of the show, things happen to him rather than because of active decisions on his part. This is part of what makes the show so interesting. Instead of watching the standard happy, sincere lovers, we're watching someone who has all our faults and more, someone who is profoundly real and ordinary. We see ourselves in Pippin, and so though we don't pity him -- after all, he brings everything on himself -- we do identify with him. We see in him our own desire to find perfection in our lives.

Pippin is in many ways the generic adolescent. He wants complete fulfillment and he wants it now. He thinks no one else is at all like him, and that no one can understand him. He tells Catherine that what's wrong with him is nothing she could possibly understand.

It's important not to sugar coat the characterization of Pippin. Make him too good- natured, too innocent, too wronged, and you lose the impact of his journey. By the end of the show, he has begun to grow up. He is a child when the show opens and he is an adult -- or at least on his way to adulthood -- when the show ends. Don't romanticize his childishness or you'll lose the value of what's he learned (or is about to learn) by the end. Don't be afraid to let Pippin be a selfish jerk sometimes. He is, because he's real; and what's more important, so are we all from time to time.

Why, We're Right Inside Your Heads...



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