Circus skills bring playful power to Jerusalem in ‘Pippin’.

Circus skills bring playful power to Jerusalem in ‘Pippin’ (photo credit: YONA CAPLAN)
Circus skills bring playful power to Jerusalem in ‘Pippin’
(photo credit: YONA CAPLAN)
‘Play is a powerful thing,” says Jerusalem- based actress Rebecca Sykes, and she should know. Sykes, who doubles as an educational consultant specializing in learning through play, is now gearing up for the powerful role of “Leading Player” in the stage musical Pippin, which opens on March 7 for eight performances in Jerusalem.
Pippin, a musical fable that tells the story of a young man’s search for the meaning of life, was written by Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz and originally directed by Bob Fosse – the creator of Chicago and other hit musicals. In 2013, a Broadway revival placed Pippin in a circus context. The current production, from Jerusalem’s Starcatcher theater company, has taken up the circus theme, giving Sykes the chance to show off skills she never thought she’d use on stage.
“When I lived in Chicago before making aliya, I studied physical theater, clowning and even learned to swing on a flying trapeze,” she says. “In Pippin, the cast doesn’t just act, sing and dance – aerial choreography and acrobatics are an important part of the show.”
Sykes got her physical strength through the serious practice of yoga – something she now teaches professionally. As an instructor, she says her credo is “people are more powerful than they know” – something that guides her educational consulting as well as her work on stage.
Missouri-born Sykes, the daughter of a professional actress, grew up deeply involved in both theater and the Jewish community.
“I had a very perceptive second-grade teacher who told my mom in no uncertain terms, ‘Get that kid into drama class – now!’ she recalls. “I found my singing voice doing Hebrew musicals at Camp Ramah, and later, when we were both working as camp staff members, I found my husband there, too.”
Moving to New York to study in the joint program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where her husband was finishing his rabbinical training, Sykes earned a degree in sacred music. One thing she has never held, she says, is a nine-to-five job.
“As an actress and in the work I do training Jewish educators, I help people reach out and dip into the overflowing well of energy that comes from play,” she says.
“This is how you create meaningful experiences.
This is how you learn.”
Sykes is excited to be bringing her overflow of energy Pippin in the Leading Player role – and is also happy to share the stage with two daughters: Mira, in the waspy role of Queen Fastrada, and Amalya, who began her training as a gymnast and aerial acrobat at the age of six and will contribute to the show’s circus-inspired sequences.
“The great thing about this show – and this part – is that I get to go full steam ahead, and take everyone with me,” Sykes says.
“The Leading Player’s job is to dare every person on stage – and in the audience – to go in deep and be stunned by the results.”
Startcatcher’s Pippin, directed by Yaeli Greenblatt, with musical direction by Jeff Rosenschein and design by Eli Kaplan Wildman, will be performed at Jerusalem’s Karnaf Auditorium, Musrara, 22 Shivtei Yisrael Street (behind the Jerusalem Municipality near the Old City) from March 7 to March 22. Tickets are available at Starcatcher.co.il, or by calling *9609.