“Pippin” Art and Character Projects: Showcasing Creative Self-Expression

Creative Self-Expression, along with Academic Excellence and Positive Character Development, are hallmarks of a Mount Madonna School (MMS) education, and are infused throughout the curriculum. What follows is an excerpt from an article by Sampad Kachuck, longtime MMS performing arts director, about Character Projects, a writing and visual art activity that each middle and high school student creates for the production(s) they are involved with.  The following images are some of the students’ work related to the current production of PIPPIN. 

Their character artworks are on display at the Hawks’ Nest Theater for the duration of the show. We hope you can watch a performance and check out the students’ art! Tickets are available at the door; Friday, January 24, 7pm curtain; Saturday-Sunday, January 25-26, 2pm curtain. 

To truly embody a character asks the actor to see and experience the world from that character’s perspective. Discovering our connection to character takes detective work, personal reflection and mainly, an embracing of the journey.

Aside from the spontaneous discoveries within rehearsal, an additional method of creating character is the Character Project. For this process, we stretch our intellectual and imaginative muscles! As with any theatrical enterprise, the first step is to read the ENTIRE script including songs to discover context: situation, time and place, character facts and relationships. We search for our chosen character’s goals and dreams, as well as conflicts and issues. Once identified, the actor’s work is to connect to the driving emotional force of the character that demands urgent immediate action. Once in a rehearsal context, the performer seeks to let the character be expressed from inside to out. This occurs by interacting with other characters, engaging our imagination while allowing some degree of vulnerability.

This project includes three elements – a character monologue, an artistic representation, and written description of the art piece.

For the artistic representation, students are asked to create an artistic representation of either their character or some aspect of their character’s life; the art piece need not be a self-portrait. Performers are encouraged to consider place (setting), object (something of importance to character) or mood (interpretive or representational art). Build it, paint it, glue it. Collages are a worthy approach, downloading or extracting pictures, symbols and images from attributed sources, along with original captions, words, our own drawings and even scrawlings. The invitation is to create something original about our chosen character.

Creating a character is an incredibly exciting, fluid, and dynamic process. The Character Project is simply one aspect of a complex journey. Once the project is completed, the challenge is that we do not rely on our own formulations, no matter how brilliant, but understand it is in community with other performers that the true formation of our character occurs.  Our discoveries and unpeeling of the layers of our created persona continues through the last performance.

Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.

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