ALHS alumnus returns to work on production of ‘Pippin’

Avon Lake

By Nicole Hennessy

A sign on the stage at Avon Lake High School’s Dr. Daniel B. Ross Performing Arts Center reads, “Pippin.” Yet the musical’s elaborate two-story set has yet to be assembled.

Coaching a few students − most of whom are preparing for spring break, − is Douglas Puskas, who could almost pass for a high school student himself.

His voice and energy fill the room, and his wide eyes shine. It is immediately obvious he loves his job.
A 2011 ALHS graduate, Puskas has since earned a degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

Having returned to his alma mater as a freelance scenic designer, Puskas says he is being offered so many jobs lately, he is turning some down. This job, though, is special to him.Puskas and Director Patricia Frank argue about what his official title is for his work on this production. They agree he is officially the artistic director, though Puskas settles on the more ambiguous title of production designer. He reasons that he is in charge of so many aspects of the production − even the vibe of the eventual performances − that it is hard to limit himself to a typically administrative title.

Frank and Puskas play off of each other, each with so much energy they may burst into a song and dance routine at any moment. It’s almost as if they are doing a comedy skit of themselves.

“I feel like I’ve never really gone away,” Puskas said as Frank laughed.

“We’re just really close, the two of us,” he continues, gesturing toward Frank. “We have such a good relationship.”

Puskas also has a good relationship with the students, something he attributes partly to his age.
Rehearsals have now begun for “Pippin,” as all the final pieces come together.

The musical tells the story of a young prince named Pippin, who explores themes related to war, the temptations of love and the dangers of politics, as he seeks to find meaning and purpose in life.
The fictional tale is told by colorful performers and high-energy dancers.

The musical also features a score of popular songs, including “Magic to Do,” “Glory” and “Corner of the Sky,” the lyrics to which were written by Stephen Schwartz, who composed productions like “Wicked,” “Children of Eden” and “Godspell.”

Frank said the thing most people don’t realize about high school theater is “how good it is.”
“Truly,” Puskas immediately added.

Show dates and times for “Pippin” are April 14 -16 at 7 p.m. and April 17 at 2 p.m. Get discounted advance sale tickets now at ALHStheater.com.

Preshow online tickets are $8 (all ages) now through noon of April 13, after which the online portal will be closed and $10 tickets can be purchased at the door. Tickets are general admission and good for any performance.

Contact Nicole Hennessy
at nicohenness@gmail.com

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