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Pips Island Enchants Young Theatergoers

Stage Directions • The Callboard • June 1, 2019

Immersive theater pieces have for some time been realized for the most part focused on drawing adult theater audiences. Though Stage Directions, in December 2017, did cover Punchdrunk’s Fallow Cross experience in London, which was geared towards elementary to middle school ages, Pip’s Island draws an even younger audience of 4-10 year olds. Yet it should be noted that with the quality of the creative design work and realization of Pip’s Island, adults accompanying the youngsters are apt to be just as transported in wonder. A truly immersive theatrical experience, which had a limited run that was quickly sold out in 2016, returned to New York City this April in a new custom-built, state-of-the-art permanent location on 42nd Street at 9th Ave to rave reviews by critics, parents, and most importantly, the under 10 yr. old theatergoers. Developed over five years, the creation of the sister-and-brother partnership of Rania & Rami Ajami, and creative director Walter Krudop, Pip’s is an hour-long walk-through journey filled with a mix of live performers, puppets, interactive set-pieces, and animated characters. Pip’s Island boasts beautiful design and fabrication work throughout nine distinctive environments, modern technology, and an imaginative interactive narrative that turns the young audience into adventuring explorers helping the hero Pip and his fellow adventurers Pebble and Finn save the island. 

An extremely tactile show designed so children could interact with every surface, all the lighting needed to be built directly into the sets and props, rather than primarily hanging above. This fully integrated approach required new ways of using technology like LED tape. LED tape was required to create cued color-changing effects, large scale windows and port holes, and even become the driving light in a room to replace traditional lighting fixtures. The designers sought a versatile, durable LED tape that could accomplish all of the design requirements and last for years in the permanent installation. City Theatrical’s QolorFLEX LED Tape and QolorFLEX NuNeon were an ideal solution. “For this show, we needed LED tape that could react like a high-end theatrical fixture, dimmers that would dim at low levels, and quality that would last. That is why we specified QolorFLEX,” notes lighting designer Al Crawford from Arc3design. The lighting package was supplied by 4Wall Entertainment.

Pip’s Island is as real as ‘make-believe’ gets for children,” says Krudop. Realizing this vision was director of production David Valentino; Pink Sparrow handled the multi-sensory experiences; puppeteers Monkey Boys created the mole henchmen and the six-foot furry baker Mrs. Grumble Plum; the production management was Tinc Productions, interactive props were produced by Paper Maché Monkey; John Creech Design and Production’s shop fabricated the Cloud Rover and Pebble’s sky-ship; while Infinite Scenic created the coral design of Shelly’s shore and costumes were handled by costume designer Fabio Toblini. 

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