BG students bring talent to Illinois All–State Musical


Nicole Bankowski

Cole Festenstein, Milan Babic and Cassandra Deck rehearse with other high school performers for the Illinois All–State Musical performance of “Pippin.”

In January, three BG students will be given the opportunity to participate in a theater production of “Pippin” with high school performers from across Illinois. Seniors Cole Festenstein and Milan Babic have been cast in the ensemble of the All–State musical and senior Cassandra Deck has been chosen to play the viola for the show’s pit orchestra.

“The level of talent is truly amazing,” Babic said. “Everybody is at such a high level, and it makes working a pleasure.”

Karen Hall, the musical’s director and choreographer, estimates that 150 high school students from Illinois auditioned for the musical, but only 36 were cast.

“My favorite part of Pippin is the amazing talent I get to work with,” Hall said. “Each cast, crew and pit member brings their A–game to every rehearsal and it is so exciting to see this come together.”

“Pippin,” set in the middle ages, tells the story of a boy who is longing for adventure. On his quest for excitement, he encounters a troupe of actors who convince him to overthrow his father’s throne, and he obliges. However, he soon regrets his actions, and this sets up the plot for the rest of the musical.

The actors have been working hard not only mentally, but physically, in order to take on their assigned roles. Festenstein is one of three males who are performing aerial stunts in the show, and is focusing on perfecting the “spanish web” currently.

“There are some intricate things we are trying to coordinate with the circus choreography and the magic illusions,” Hall said. “I love working on challenges like these, it’s what makes theater exciting.”

The production rehearses approximately one weekend every month. Babic estimates that the show will only have about six or seven rehearsals total, though the days during which the rehearsals take place consist of long, 12– hour blocks. With such an infrequent rehearsal schedule, the actors admit that retaining information from previous rehearsals can be a challenge, though they make sure to keep up in order to continue improving the show.

“It’s important to practice because success comes from preparation,” Festenstein said. “Every month, all everyone wants is for each rehearsal to succeed the past one.”

Deck, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same time commitments as the actors. Her rehearsals are often shorter and only take place during two of the three days that the actors rehearse.

“The music is kind of difficult so im trying to practice as much as I can,” Deck said.

The show is set to debut at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival, which will be held at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign from Jan. 8–10. BG’s Thespian Society will be taking a field trip down to the festival and will get the opportunity to see their peers perform.

“Every production is unique, but this one is special,” Hall said. “They are a remarkably hard–working and dedicated group of performers who I truly enjoy working with. They bring such dedication and joy to their work, and they really have created an extraordinary show that I think everyone attending Theatre Fest will be thrilled to see.”

The three BG students are take part in a multitude of extracurriculars, many of which involve music or theatre. Though “Pippin” will be coming to an end in the near future, these  individuals plan with their passions by pursuing either acting or music in college.

“I know I want to keep music in my life in some way,” Babic said. “It definitely won’t end here.”