LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Virginia Pike, Part 2: From Office Temp to Broadway

Today I'm continuing my interview with Virginia Hart Pike a composer, piano teacher, and musical director living in New York City. She is cofounder and artistic director of music for Skylight Dance Theatre  She has written two musicals, many choral works, and many more art songs, which have been heard at various venues throughout New York City and beyond. She has also worked as a musical director and piano/keyboards player on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theater. For three years she also held the title of Choir Director at St. George's Episcopal Church. She holds an M.F.A. from NYU and a B.S. from Duke University.

LeAnne: What was it like to take Skylight from your vision of what it could be through to its debut production?

Virginia: It was very exciting to see the whole thing come together, one step at a time, from watching the money come in, to hiring the dancers, assembling the choir and hiring the musicians. It was all a little surreal, because there was always a part of me that wasn't sure it would really happen. It was also disappointing that the show was over so quickly (it only ran for one weekend) because we spent months and months pouring ourselves into it and then poof--it was gone in a moment. It felt like we'd been through all the labor pains but didn't have the baby. It made us that much more determined to do the show again.

LM: You've worked as a musician on Broadway. What were some of the highlights of that experience?

VP: I played the keyboards for James Joyce's The Dead. It was very exciting. The moment that sticks out in my memory is the day my friend, Deborah Abramson, the Associate Musical Director for the show, called me and asked, "What are you doing the next few months?" We had graduated from NYU just a few months prior, and I had pretty much spent the summer doing office temp work. My answer to her question was "Nothing at all. Why might you ask?" She asked if I could come to rehearsal that day, and in one day I went from thinking I might be a temp for the rest of my life to working in a room with Christopher Walken, Stephen Spinella, and Marni Nixon. I was beside myself. It was a gift from God, truly. I had just handed my life over to God a few weeks prior, and I basically said to Him, "Even if you want me to be an office temp the rest of my life, I'll trust you and let You have Your way." In fact, that was when I became a Christian. I truly didn't expect the Lord to give me a Broadway show. 

Another moment that sticks out was when I got to rehearse with Faith Prince to help her learn her music when she was taking over the lead role. Truth be told, I didn't even do a very good job, because the night before I found out that one of my best friends (my Christian friend who helped lead me to Christ) was leaving New York City. I was up almost the whole night crying. Then when I got to rehearsal I found that the score Deborah had left me was incomplete and not always in the right key. Deborah usually just played by ear and assumed I could do the same, which I couldn't. Although that was a little embarrassing, Faith Prince was so sweet. From the time she saw me, she could tell something was wrong and tried to comfort me when I told her about my friend.

The cast on the whole was one of the most brilliant ensembles I've ever seen together on stage. Just getting to watch them together so many times was truly a privilege.

LM: What are you working on now?

VP: Now Amanda and I are working on two pieces for Skylight that are linked together by the theme of sacrificial love. One is an abstract dance piece about three couples, each of which is in a different stage of their relationship and each of which must undergo some sort of sacrifice in order for the relationship to move forward. The other piece is really a musical but with dance playing a prominent role in the storytelling. It is about a married couple in which the husband is a soldier in the war in Iraq and about the effect his deployment has on their marriage.

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