Fall musical “Pippin” wonders: Better to burn out than fade away?


Denver Post

A moment from the Broadway revival of “Pippin”

Kurt Cobain suggested new adjunct theater professor Patrick Houle should make JSC’s fall musical “Pippin.”

“I was listening to Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album and I thought of the line in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note that stated it was better to burn out than to fade away,” Houle said. “That’s when it hit me that this was truly the perfect show.”

“Pippin” is a Broadway musical about a prince searching for meaning, guided by a mysterious player in a performance troupe.

It was first performed in 1972, directed by Bob Fosse, who directed the film “Cabaret,” with Liza Minnelli, the same year.

“‘Pippin’ asks the question of whether it’s better to burn out or fade away,” Houle said. “Is it better to settle for the ordinary-but-happy life or be remembered, but go out in a blaze of glorious destruction? I felt that could engage everyone from the actors to the audience.

“Plus I have always been a fan of quirky and ‘Pippin’ is nothing if not quirky. It’s got an interesting blend of comedy and the disturbing.”

Houle said “Pippin” “challenges us to look not only at our grand aspirations, but also at our darker impulses toward destructive choices.”

“Other than rock soundtrack, I think “Pippin” deals with the existential questions that we all ask ourselves. What is my purpose? What am I supposed to be doing? How can I leave my mark in the world? Pippin tries to discover himself in everything from drugs to war to sex.”

Auditions for “Pippin” were held Sept. 1 and 2. Houle said “Pippin” will feature “the oddest collection of rogues, sages, mystics, vagabonds, free spirits, wanderers, and eccentrics that Johnson State College has to offer.”

“I love actors who take chances, are confident, and passionate,” said Houle. “I love open-minded actors with a positive attitude and a tireless work ethic. For me, the acceptance of mediocrity is one of the worst things that a person can do to themselves. Our actors will be adventurous, and they will have the fun kind of spirit that brings this show to life.”

Houle is an JSC alumnus. He’s worked as an actor and director in the 12 years since his graduation.

“One of the surreal parts of this whole process is working in a department with Russ Longtin,” Houle said, “who has been a mentor, friend, and guru from my initial time at Johnson. To work with someone I respect so much has been both incredible and humbling.”

“Pippin” will be performed on Nov. 6 as a matinee, and then in the evening from Nov. 7 through Nov. 9.

“So much about this show allows the actors and production staff to leave their imprint,” Houle said. “We can really make it our own show.”