By Calli McRae
Working at Pip’s Island is unlike any theatrical experience I have been a part of. It is not just a show. It is not just a series of musical numbers. It is not just an adventure for children. It is an all-inclusive, multi-faceted immersive experience that transports you into another world where you play, create and witness the power of harnessing everything you have within you to restore the light in the places that need it most.
As an actor, I am continually excited by the challenge of balancing many facets of the show. Ultimately it is my responsibility to advance the story, stay true to my character, and integrate the explorers in the adventure so that they are the true heroes. This is especially exciting because I have the privilege of using the kids’ ideas and suggestions to advance the plot line. Since I play Shelly, who harnesses the Imagine Spark, I get to use my imagination to fit all the puzzle pieces together. I can always find a way to use what the kids say to earn the Imagine Spark. I see them believe in power of using their imagination to solve problems and to create in a way that is intriguing to them.
Another interesting challenge is meeting the different needs of the children. Some children have high energy and are very vocal while others are more reserved and mild-mannered. It is important for me as an actor to know what the kids’ needs and how to tailor my performance to them in a way that is enjoyable, entertaining, and non-threatening while still maintaining authenticity as a character. Ultimately, I remain true to the character that I have developed while still allowing flexibility to adapt.
In some shows, particularly in very large groups, I need to stick to the key points to keep the story moving along, while in others, I have more room to improv and play and try on different hats as my character.
As a stationary character, I remain in one room for the duration of the show. I do not travel with the group. As an actor this is particularly interesting because I’m not with the group for the entire time, so I do not see the story from start to finish. Usually when I’m a part of a more traditional theater show, I experience the entirety of the performance even when I am offstage. There is something special about experiencing a show from start to finish, but what’s unique about performing as a stationary character in an immersive experience is that I get to interact with every group that comes through. This also means that I get to work with a variety of different actors and combination of actors who are traveling characters. In that regard, I get to find special moments and interactions with each of those actors, which are ever-changing and developing. It’s really fun to have a unique relationship with the actors who cover the same character.
Pip’s Island is for the dreamers, the seekers, the adventurers, and the innovators. While it is an experience primarily for young people, it is not only for kids. As an actor, I get to play to the kids and the adults. I’ve seen adults come alive and reconnect with their child-like spirit and inner spark. To say it is fulfilling would be an understatement.