After learning about Renegade Productions through a friend, Elon University freshman Jackson Bennett signed up for the student organization’s newsletter last fall. Now, on April 19 and 20, the Cinema and Television Arts major will be performing as the title role in Renegade’s spring musical, “Pippin.”

While the show’s three performances are sold-out, Renegade Productions is doing a free ticket lottery that anyone can enter. The lottery winner will be drawn at 5 p.m. on April 18 and information about how to enter is on the club’s Instagram page, @elonrenegade. Performances are at 8:30 p.m. April 19 and 20 and there is a 3 p.m. performance on April 20. 

Renegade is a student-run theater organization open to students of all majors and backgrounds. Senior and Renegade Productions President Tommy Pegan said he is looking forward to audiences seeing Bennett’s Elon theater debut. 

“I'm really excited for the world to be introduced to Jackson Bennett,” Pegan said. “I cannot wait to see the people's faces when he opens his mouth to sing ‘Corner of the Sky.’ Butter. He's so good.”

As Pippin strives to find his “Corner of the Sky” throughout the musical, Bennett is finding his corner of campus in Renegade. 

“Pippin is one lucky soul, who was able to just find his way into the group and he doesn't really know anybody and he doesn't know their whole business,” Bennett said. “The same could sort of be said about my situation. I'm coming into Renegade for the first time. … Finding myself in this group of people who are already kind of familiar with each other and, hopefully, I made connections with them.”

Sarah T. Moore | Elon News Network
Freshman Jackson Bennett and his cast mates for Renegade Productions' spring musical "Pippin" rehearse on April 15 in the Black Box Theatre.

While Bennett said he was shocked when he got the role of Pippin, Pegan said Bennett was more than right for the role. 

“I joke that I prayed like an orphan on a windowsill that a freshman boy with a voice like gold would come audition for ‘Pippin,’” Pegan said. “Literally every night and I’d be like ‘Please, please, please, please, please, please, please.’ And then he just showed up and auditioned.”

The music and lyrics of “Pippin” are by Stephen Schwartz, whose other popular works include “Wicked” and “Godspell.” At its core, “Pippin” explores self-discovery, autonomy and sacrifice. However, Pegan said he’s been trying to avoid telling people the show’s premise. 

“I think if I told them what it was about, it would change their viewing of it,” Pegan said. “Follow his journey through your lens and you'll find meaning in it. But what that meaning is will be specific to you.”

Sarah T. Moore | Elon News Network
Members of the cast of "Pippin," including freshman Jackson Bennett in the center, rehearse on April 15 in the Center for Arts Black Box.

As the director, Pegan has made some changes to how the show tends to be portrayed, stepping away from the frequently used circus setting. The show’s new lens was inspired by two of Elon’s recent main stage productions, “Spring Awakening” and “A Chorus Line.” Pegan credited Renegade’s adaptation of “Pippin” to the influences of performing arts professor Kim Shively and visiting professor Jane Lanier, who directed the two shows respectively. 

“[Lanier] taught me that if it's not broke, don't fix it. So we've taken elements from Pippin that work and we keep those because they work — and why would I reinvent legendary iconic moments?” Pegan said. “Professor Shively taught me if it isn't working, look at it critically and think how can I make these adjustments subtly without changing the meaning of the show?”

Junior Emily Stober plays Fastrada and described Renegade’s production of “Pippin” as fantastical, creepy and fun. 

“The way that Tommy is doing it is so cool because it's so stripped back from what people normally see ‘Pippin.’ So it's really reliant on us acting and just being playful,” Stober said. “I'm so excited to do it in front of audiences.”

Pegan referred to Renegade’s production of “Pippin” as site-specific, “but the site that is specific is a black box theater.” During the show, the Center for the Arts Black Box will have thrust seating — where the audience is on three sides of the performance. The seating adds to the musical’s immersive experience, which acknowledges the audience throughout, Pegan said. 

Renegade’s “Pippin” isn’t Pegan’s first production of the show. Pegan played Pippin the summer before his senior year of high school, but said being able to take on a leadership role and mentor younger cast members has been “the greatest gift that college has given me.”

“It's been very cathartic to be able to revisit this through my strongest suit,” Pegan said. “I've always been a director who hasn't had the opportunity to direct, so I'm just really fortunate that I can do it with my favorite musical and with a fantastic group of people.”

Sarah T. Moore | Elon News Network
Junior Collin Flanagan during a rehearsal for "Pippin," Renegade Productions spring musical, on April 15 in the Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre.

Junior Collin Flanagan is also revisiting the show. In high school, he played Pippin, and now is portraying Leading Player. Flanagan said it’s been an impactful experience to be in a production of “Pippin” again.

“I was a very different person before I went to college, so it's very full circle back to playing like the opposite end of the show as Leading Player instead of Pippin.”

Flanagan said he is excited for audiences to see the twists and turns of the story and experience the “musical theater magic” of Renegade’s “Pippin.”

“It's just a very magical show,” Flanagan said. “So if you're going to join us, ‘We’ve got magic to do, just for you.’”