Troy University’s touring theatrical ensemble, the Pied Pipers, will be performing three shows at the historic Dothan Opera House on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
The Pied Pipers is a group of student actors, directors, and staff that travel together around the area and put on public and school performances.
The group is a yearly tradition that began over 40 years ago when the first director of theater, David Dye, began the theater department at Troy University.
According to Tori Averett, chair of the department of theater and dance and the director of the Pied Pipers, Dye began the group because he wanted to bring theater to the community.
“He thought it was important not only for the actor training – training the voice and body and imagination—but he also believed that performing for communities and schools was important, and he wanted that to be a part of what this theater program did when he began it all those years ago,” Averett said. “I think there have been times when the Pied Pipers would go into a hiatus or there have been years when there hasn’t been an ensemble, but it’s lasted this entire time and it’s a long standing, strong tradition.”
The group is known for performing folktales and fables, and their Dothan shows will consist of five stories: The Tortoise and the Hare, A Mushroom in the Rain, Sally the Skunk, A Forest Trap, and The Three Little Pigs. They will do three performances on Jan. 31, two school shows in the morning at 9:30 and 12:30 and then a public performance at 6 p.m., each of which will last 45 minutes to an hour.
To be a member of the Pied Pipers, current students must audition, much like with other theatrical performances on campus. Then, there is a call-back process so the directors can see if a person’s personality, body movements, energy levels, and everything else match with what they are looking for from a member of the group.
All of the current members of the group are brand new as the Pied Pipers have not performed in two or three years. They spent the fall semester rehearsing, and Tuesday’s performance will be their first ever, kick-starting their tour.
Maggie Criswell, a senior theatre major from Oneonta, says that the group has been working hard since last semester.
“We’ve rehearsed for four hours a day every Sunday and then we did a three-day retreat to get us to all bond together and really become one unified group,” Criswell said. “When we began working, we just started with the script and we, as the actors, started off with our interpretation of it and our director, Tori Lee, told us to go farther or pull it back.”
The Pied Pipers may perform for children, but they take their performance very seriously. According to Averett, while some people believe that bright colors and loud noises can hold a child’s attention, the Pipers aim to give them a true theater performance.
“What we believe is that because they are so young and impressionable, we may be their first exposure to formal theater, so we take it pretty seriously,” Averett said. “We think the children deserve the best we have to offer, not just a cheap version of adult theater.”
The group is already expecting 700 children at their two morning performances.
Carlton Hedman, a senior theater major with a dance minor from Bonifay, Florida, views being a member of the Pied Pipers as an honor. Being a senior, he said that he is “so, so happy the Pied Pipers is coming back and not being snuffed out.
“I’m glad I get the opportunity to be a part of the group and get to help build this ensemble back and not let it die out or be snuffed out, but allowing its flame to just ignite again and continue to be here,” Hedman said.
“We walked across the campus the other day for our photoshoot over in the journalism building looking like a rainbow, in all those bright, lovely colors, dragging all that attention, and I just think it hit home right then and there that we are a family and we are about to do this and, come what may, we’ve got a long road to embark on, but just a wonderful road of pure energy, joy, and happiness to connect with these kids in these surrounding communities.”
The public show will be at 6 p.m. and will last 45 minutes to an hour.