Pippin set to show at DPAC

A student-led performance of the musical comedy “Pippin” will show at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center this weekend. Students have worked this semester to create a show that will not only make audiences laugh, but also reflect on the broader theme of one’s purpose in life. 

Nick Buranicz is a senior chemistry and FTT double major and both the director and executive producer of “Pippin”. He chose to put this show on as his senior Capstone project for the musical theater minor partly because of the liveliness of the content, he said. “It’s really fun, really colorful, and really movement and dance-based.” 

His role is both administrative and creative. He has worked on the show since early August, when he pitched it to the FTT department, and throughout the semester, staging the performance, working with the choreographer, the music directors, and other creative leaders. “We kind of built it up over time, like any standard theater process,” he said. 

Though he isn’t performing in this show, Buranicz has a strong background in acting, having started when he was a freshman in high school. Once arriving at Notre Dame, he took a directing class with Professor and Director of Musical Theater, Matt Hawkins, which he said helped inform him as a director and an actor. 

Pippin’s story is not only told by the script itself, but by the “directing choices, acting, crew, and music,” Emily Kane said. She is a senior majoring in ACMS (Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics) and honors music performance with a minor in education, schooling, and society. She is the music director in charge of the orchestra pit for “Pippin.” She has worked with the musicians who will play live for each performance, and studied the score as one of their conductors. 

This performance required a rigorous rehearsal schedule. Rehearsal started in the second week of the semester, and took place five days a week for four hours each day. “I’m looking forward to having a show that’s really solid, that people can come and enjoy and say, ‘Wow, that was really well done,’” Buranicz said.

Carlos Macias, a sophomore neuroscience and behavior major, mentioned that he has spent many hours at rehearsal. He is playing the lead role of “Pippin.” 

Macias started doing musical theater at the end of his junior year of high school, and this show will be his first time as a cast member in a musical on Notre Dame’s campus. Nerves and excitement are both present for him, but he is especially looking forward to showing people a side of him that he is passionate about. “It’s kind of awesome to reveal the rest of what makes you yourself,” he said.

Timothy Merkle is a senior FTT major with a concentration in theater and has an ACMS supplemental major and a minor in musical theater. He is performing the roles of King Charles and “player” as well as working as the assistant director. His role as king is a source of fun energy in the show, he said. “I think you often have this idea of a king as a very proper figure who does not joke around, and King Charles is the opposite of that.” 

Merkle and Buranicz have worked to make a professional environment, while keeping it fun, encouraging the cast members to make their own choices in playing their roles, Merkle said. As for the audience, Merkle hopes that the performance can serve as an entertaining and energetic “mental escape from school,” he said.  

Another reason Buranicz chose “Pippin” was because of its message. As a devout Catholic, Buranicz likes to incorporate themes within the Catholic realm into the shows he directs, he said, and “Pippin” has a universal message of self-sacrifice and asks the question of “where we can find true fulfillment and happiness in the world.”  

Throughout the rehearsal process, the cast has gotten close with each other. Kate Turner is a sophomore FTT and vocal performance double major with a musical theater minor, who has been doing musical theater since she was four years old. Turner will be playing the role of Catherine in the show. She spoke about the energy and closeness of the group that has made this performance special. “Everyone has been so enthusiastic and everyone has brought a different thing to the table,” she said. 

“Pippin” is showing Oct. 7-9, 2022, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., at the Philbin Studio Theatre in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Pippin. Performances are scheduled for October 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. and Sunday October 9 at 2 p.m.

ND club aims to build Mars rover

A newly formed Notre Dame student group is dedicated to building a fully functioning Mars rover from scratch. The Domer Rover club hopes to compete in the University Rover Challenge. The competition, held annually at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah, focuses on each step of the learning process along the way.

The founding members are sophomores Dorothy Crumlish, Matthew Egan, Sean Egan and Griffin Vrdolyak. Crumlish, a mechanical engineering major originally from South Bend, is president of the club. “I was sort of the one who brought it to the table, and then took the lead on it,” she said. 

Across the country, schools like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brigham Young University and the University of Michigan, the reigning champions, have official Mars rover clubs dedicated to competing in the University Rover Challenge. The group saw these other schools and thought to bring the idea to Notre Dame. 

They began to organize the club at the end of last fall semester and continued to meet once a week throughout the following spring, sorting through administrative logistics like funding and coordination with SAO. “We’re not an official club yet,” Sean Egan, a mechanical engineering major, said. “But if you’re interested, there’s a role for you.” 

This semester they have met often with their advisor Paul Rumbach, an associate teaching professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, and looked at smaller models of rovers. Soon they will split into teams and start building their own rover from scratch. The group has access to 3D printers through the College of Engineering and can print the necessary parts. 

“It’s going to be a lot of hands-on stuff,” Vrdolyak, also a mechanical engineering major, said. No prior experience building rovers is necessary to be a part of the club, he said. “We’re gonna be learning along with everyone else, and we think it’s a great opportunity to explore a part of engineering that a lot of people don’t get to see,” Vrdolyak said.

In the competition, the rover has four missions it must successfully complete. The first is the science mission, where part of the rover’s job is to “collect soil samples and analyze them for life,” Crumlish said. The extreme retrieval and delivery mission requires the rover to navigate irregular terrain, as if it were on Mars, and deliver something to the “astronaut.” The equipment servicing mission tests the rover’s ability to perform “dexterous” operations, including typing on a keyboard, flipping switches and fixing various objects, she said. The last is the autonomous navigation mission, where the rover must go through a series of different gates, testing its capability to navigate a challenging environment on its own.

There are multiple stages of judging before making it to the competition in Utah. The preliminary design review is due this December, and a system acceptance review is due in March 2023. The system acceptance review consists of a video sent to the Mars Society, which runs the competition, of the rover doing all four missions. The Mars society then picks around 30 to 40 teams to continue on to the final competition, currently set to take place in June 2023. 

Though the competition is the ultimate end goal, right now, the club is focused on the learning process. This semester they hope to actually build a rover, even if it isn’t to full scale. Once the rover is built, it will be given a name. “We all have some ideas,” Crumlish said.

“Our goal for this year is basically just to learn as much about the design process and the manufacturing process of building a Mars rover,” Vrdolyak said. “And then, you know, a few years down the road, maybe before I graduate, we can win it all and finally beat Michigan.”