Next Tuesday, Dothan families will have a chance to experience the fun and excitement of a four-decade Troy University tradition: the Pied Pipers.
But who, exactly, are the Pied Pipers, and what can audiences expect when they attend the show on Jan. 31 at the Dothan Opera House?
For the answers, we turned to TROY Department of Theatre and Dance Chair Tori Lee Averett, who also directs the Pied Pipers.
“This is a performance ensemble that performs for young audiences, something that in the theater industry might be called children’s theater,” Averett said. “They do a collection of familiar folk tales and stories, and it’s really high energy – they sing, they dance and they play characters from stories like ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and ‘The Tortoise and the Hare.’”
The Pied Pipers formed at Troy University in 1970 and have toured throughout the region performing at schools and events.
Currently, the group consists of 16 TROY students, who will take the stage at 6 p.m. Tuesday after performing for area schools earlier in the day.
“We’ve had several generations of Pied Pipers who have gone around the state of Alabama and the southeastern United States performing in communities for young school children, primarily pre-K through 3rd grade,” Averett said.
Armed primarily with colorful costumes and their own abilities, the performers tailor their shows to a child’s attention span.
“For the performers, this is an incredibly demanding style of theater,” Averett said. “It’s very physical. It requires physical stamina, because the energy you need to sustain performances for children is demanding. It also demands clarity, making sure they can follow the story and follow who the characters are.”
Those who participate in the group take away valuable experience they can translate into their future careers.
“It’s a really valuable opportunity for ensemble,” Averett said. “It’s a big deal. They work their own shows, work their own lights, and they do it with a sense of play and community and ensemble. I think another thing that’s unique and that’s morphed over years with Pied Pipers, we have several students who are theater education majors, a relatively new major. The ones that are theater education majors, part of the reason they’re in this group is they have desire to see that theater is shared with young people.”
By igniting the imaginations of children, the Pied Pipers are laying the foundation, potentially, for future members of the group.
“There’s a service involved in giving back. These college students may be supplying a young person with their first ever trip to the theater or their first ever live theater performance,” Averett said. “This is setting the bar for what those children will come to expect. The (Pipers) want to set a high standard.”
The Tuesday performance is free and open to the public.