What Can You Learn from “Pippin”?

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At the Tony Awards, “Pippin” earned four well-deserved honors:

Best Revival of a Musical, Best Featured Actress (Patina Miller), Best Director (Diane Paulus) and, for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, Andrea Martin.

The Spectacle Inside of Pippin – Recorded June 1, 2013

If you’re not familiar with the story of Pippin, there is a unique element to the show.  Thinking back to high school English class,  do you remember how there’s always supposed to be a “protagonist” and “antagonist”?

You know what I mean: a good guy and a bad guy.  There has to be some sort of challenge inside the story.  There has to be someone who opposes the hero, right?

Except, in Pippin, the good guy is the bad guy.  He’s also sort of a middle-of-the-road guy as well.

Tony Award Winner, Andrea Martin

Tony Award Winner, Andrea Martin

The challenge he faces is inside of himself, and the central conflict of the story is: Pippin spends 98.6% of the play trying to be someone he’s not.

Have you ever felt like that?

Then, when he realizes who he is (introduced via a song called Simple Joys) he fights with…himself.  Or, more accurately, his vision of himself.

He resists a life that he believes is commonplace (Pippin’s anthem, Extraordinary, is perhaps where aspiration meets perspiration. You know that feeling?)

Watching Pippin struggle to reconcile who he is with who he believes he should be is a fascinating story. But, on the surface, there’s no villain, no threat, no real conflict in the plot.

So, if the “essence of drama is conflict” (hey, give me a break – I was listening in freshman English class), is this show just about great songs and death-defying acrobatics? (oh yeah, there’s a bunch of that.  This show kinda punches Cirque de Soleil in the face. Check the videos on youtube)

More than the music, more than the circus acts (which are incredible in this production), there is a simple story of a man finding himself. In fact, that story is your story. And mine.


Have you ever asked yourself, like Pippin, “Just who am I supposed to be?”

As you “think about your life”, like Pippin, consider that the simple joys are ultimately the only joys.  If you spend time chasing a vision of who you should be, how you should act, and what you should do, why not stop for a minute and just be who you are?

I wanted magic shows and miracles

Mirages to touch

I wanted such a little thing from life

I wanted so much…

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just be yourself.  In your relationships, in your office, in your life, there’s no more “magic to do” than to be who you are.  The great lesson from Pippin is that who you are is enough. 

The production numbers, the music and the spectacle make for a fantastic night in the theater. But, after the lights go down and the curtain descends, what’s next?

Ultimately, you’ve got to connect with the people that matter most. That’s all there is, and that’s enough.

When it comes to your story, making a real connection is the only performance that matters.

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