One-woman shows bring history to life

MALTA – In 1994, actress Pippa White was facing a personal drama.

“When my husband started teaching at the University of Nebraska, I thought if I’m ever going to have a career as a performer, I’m going to have to act alone,” White said, adding that Nebraska isn’t exactly the entertainment capital of the world.

White, “a stage-struck kid” who did commercials as a child growing up in California, decided to create her own one-woman plays. The first was “The Tales of the Orphan Train,” about the train which operated from 1854 to 1929, connecting 200,000 to 500,000 orphan children with adoptive families.

“The orphan train is a forgotten story, but it’s just fascinating,” she said. “Being an ‘orphan’ back then usually meant you were illegitimate. It was hush, hush, don’t talk about it. But most of them went on to become successful.”

All of White’s 12 shows are based on real people. Originally for local audiences, she said the demand for her shows gradually grew and she has now appeared in 31 states.

“One day I’ll be under a basketball hoop and the next day I’ll be in a beautiful hotel,” she said. “Every audience is different. I perform for schools, museums, groups and a lot of women’s centers.”

White will present two of her 70-minute shows at the Jenkins Auditorium at Kishwaukee College on Thursday, April 11. “As Far as the Eye Can See,” a show about the prairie and its people – pioneers, settlers, Native Americans and the people of the Dust Bowl – will be presented at 12:30 p.m. “The Tales of the Orphan Train” will be performed at 7 p.m. Both shows are free and open to the public.

This is White’s fourth appearance at the Malta campus, though her first since 2009.

“She always does an amazing job,” said Lisa March, the director of continuing education. “We’re glad to have her back. ...She’s very popular.”

Every time she performs at Kishwaukee, March said, White does a different show. Thursday’s performances are being sponsored by Kishwaukee Library Services with a grant from the Kishwaukee Foundation.

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