For the first time, our Youth Academy is working on a World Premiere production! This spring, Orlando REP’s Youth Academy will present the very first production of the musical, Pickle Chiffon Pie, A Peculiar Predicament for a Princess! Youth Academy students will experience the process of new play development which includes events like the new play reading Orlando Family Stage held this past Tuesday night!
|When a play has never had a full production, creators often use play readings as a tool to develop new works. With less rehearsal time, no need to invest in production elements, and full focus on the text, play readings offer the creators an opportunity to hear the work out loud and interpreted by performers. This process often reveals the strengths and opportunities for growth in a script that the creators may not have been able to see on their own.|
It was a new experience for many, and the prospect of being some of the first actors to develop these roles is any actor’s dream. Chloe Ramos, a Youth Academy student agrees, “We should do more of these! Everyone knows Once Upon a Mattress and [Disney’s] The Lion King, but this is brand new and that’s really cool!” Let’s hear more about this super cool experience!
Where did we begin?
The play is a musical adaptation of the children’s book Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield in 1967. Jeff Revels, Orlando Family Stage Artistic Director, and Jennifer Adams, Orlando Family Stage Education Director, have been working closely with composers and lyricists Jeff Artzi and Daniel Tenenbaum over the past year to continue development of a script that Mr. Tenenbaum and Mr. Artzi began many years ago. “Pickle Chiffon Pie was one of my childhood favorites and is now a favorite of my children,” explains Dan. “After securing the rights, we completed the initial musical adaptation of the book with support and creative input from Roger, who truly is jolly!”
Mr. Tenenbaum and Mr. Artzi both have great love for music and musical theatre. Jeff A. plays the piano and guitar and has been writing music since he was a teenager. And a fun fact about Dan is that he has seen over 650 unique musicals in his adult life, and has two teenage daughters who have seen over 350 unique musicals each! Dan and Jeff A. were roommates at Brandeis University and in their senior year, wrote a musical called Dare to Be Different, which was a celebration of diversity on campus. This was their first taste of the creative play development process.
The two teamed up with Michael Bobbit, formerly with Adventure Theatre in Maryland, who served as the book writer for the theatrical adaptation. Their work resulted in a play reading with actors from the Washington DC area. Once the script made its way to Orlando REP, we ran with the challenge of creating something uniquely fit for our Youth Academy students!
A small group of Youth Academy students participated in a reading of the current Pickle Chiffon Pie, A Peculiar Predicament for a Princess draft this past Tuesday to an audience of their peers and parents. These students got a first look at the upcoming spring production. “When we started planning the Youth Academy season, we knew that a play reading needed to be a part of the curriculum,” explains Ms. Jenn, “It is not every day that our young people will get the chance to experience the development of a new work, so we aim to take advantage of every learning moment we can.” Our creators are also excited for the chance to hear the script out loud. Jeff A. agrees, “It’s a BIG help because we get to hear what’s working and what may need to be changed. Actually hearing the actors bring the characters to life through dialogue and lyrics is a real thrill and we’re very grateful for the opportunity to hear it all come together!”
|Students dove into the script as performers, developing character and examining the plot, and were also asked to think critically about the piece. What is working? What are we connecting with? What is confusing? What is missing? This deep engagement with the text helps directly influence the final product. Audience members during the reading were also able to give feedback, with fresh sets of eyes and ears that give valuable insight into how the story is received by an audience.|
Young performer Lula Kasten was very familiar with the original book prior to hearing that there was a play version, “I was impressed with how they took such a short story and made it into something with more characters and details.” Other students didn’t even know there was a book, but expressed an interest in reading it after having heard the play.
Highlights from the script for our young performers are some of the pop styled melodies, funny puns and word play, and an independent heroine. But nothing compares to their excitement over some wild and zany characters, from a set of squabbling twin brothers, to a hungry dragon, an allergic witch, and a moody mouse, among others. Ms. Jenn is excited for what the students can learn from these challenges, “There are many bold and unique characters in the script and those are great elements to have in a project we do with our students. These characters encourage our young performers to take creative risks and make big choices, all of which build confidence and resilience in the individual.”
How has the script changed?
Jeff Artzi describes some of the changes that have been made from the first draft of the script to the one our students will work with. “One of the most important changes we made involves empowering the Princess to make her own choices, giving voice to a character that was much more muted in a book written in the 60s. We’re really proud of that and believe it makes the show much more relatable to modern audiences.” Ms. Jenn is equally proud of the progress they’ve made, “In a world where empowerment and independence can look different for every young person, it continues to be an important conversation that Theatre for Young Audiences can uniquely tackle, especially as we involve young people in the creation of these new works.”
Another consideration is that the play was originally written for a cast of eight actors. Small cast sizes are very common for most professional theatres, but since Orlando Family Stage hoped to use this show in our Youth Academy, they needed to expand the script to be appropriate for thirty or more young performers! This was an exciting challenge welcomed by Mr. Tenenbaum and Mr. Artzi, “The joy and fun of the musical and its whimsical characters is best enjoyed with a large cast—and even more so with the talents of a large youth cast. It’s written to be a spectacle!”
Mr. Artzi continues, “In the case of Pickle Chiffon Pie, the challenge was staying as close as possible to the original Bradford book, while writing music, lyrics, AND modernizing the story. Of course, writing always has its challenges, both melodically and lyrically, in that we’re trying to create something fun—and funny—that audiences of all ages will enjoy. But even when the process is more difficult, we usually feel a great sense of accomplishment (and relief!) whenever we complete a song.”
What is the play about?
In the Kingdom of Bushelpeck, the royal family is quite distressed. King Willoughbye can not enjoy his favorite dessert – Queen Lauralai’s famous Pickle Chiffon Pie. Cucumbers, the main ingredient, are in short supply. Adding to the problem, numerous princes are devouring whatever pie supply there is when they are hosted for dinners with Princess Sunnyskye, who is of marrying age. What solution does the King come up with to save his kingdom from this tragedy? And what is a Princess to do when she realizes she is no longer in control of her own destiny? Come with us into the Wonderwierd forest to find out! A timeless tale of the importance of love, kindness, and consideration of others, truly the “Most Wonderful Thing!”
Do you want to be involved?
Auditions for Pickle Chiffon Pie, A Peculiar Predicament for a Princess! will be in January, and audition sign-ups will be available in December at https://orlandofamilystage.com/youth-academy/youth-academy-auditions/
Contact [email protected] or 407-896-7365 x219 for more information.
Performances are May 1, 2, and 3, 2020!