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UM actor inspires positivity on and off stage

UM theater student Chayten Pippin
Posted at 7:48 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 15:50:47-04

MISSOULA — This weekend, Missoula Community Theater will wrap up the 2021-2022 season with its final show. From the tap dancing to the multicolored costumes, “The Spongebob Musical” is sure to impress.

You may know “Spongebob” as the popular cartoon on Nickelodeon. In 2018, the cartoon was adapted for the Broadway stage.

From Broadway to the Missoula Community Theater, The Spongebob Musical is sparking joy far beyond the TV waves.

“Just to give the show to audiences…it's been amazing to experience the laughing and clapping,” said cast member Chayten Pippin.

Singing and dancing through more than seven costume changes, Pippin says MCT’s “Spongebob” is just the beginning.

“I think it was my junior year of high school, and I just really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after I graduated,” recalled Pippin.

He saw Mamma Mia at Fort Peck that year and sitting in the audience, it all became clear.

Now a freshman theater student at the University of Montana, Pippin’s days revolve around the stage, but this show is extra special.

“First of all, it's a really fun show. There’s just a lot happening in it, and there's a bunch of hidden messages in it,” Pippin told MTN News.

Hidden behind colorful choreography and quick costume changes, you’ll find a story of hope, joy, and overcoming adversity.

It’s a story Chayten Pippin knows better than anyone.

“It was October of 2020, I believe, and I just started noticing my stomach starting to hurt more and more,” said Pippin. “At first, I thought it was like appendicitis or something. Then eventually when we went to the doctor to see what it was, we found out it was a cancer called desmoplastic small round cell tumor.”

Cancer.gov reports only about 200 cases of DSRCT have been recorded since it was first described in 1989.

“Our doctor said this would be changing our way of life and it wasn’t a lie,” said Chayten’s dad, Chris.

Just as his senior year began, Chayten, with his mom Heidi by his side, relocated from Saco to Denver to be near the children's hospital.

“He started tests immediately and started chemo immediately,” recalled Heidi.

Cancer didn't just impact Chayten's senior year, it took a toll on the whole family.

“To this day we go back to Denver every three months and he does all his scans,” said Heidi, listing off the medication and treatments Chayten continues to receive.

It would be normal to feel scared or bitter, but Chayten just wants to get this show on the road.

“Over time, I just kind of tried to stay positive throughout it because I didn't want to put myself down more than what I was already going through,” explained Pippin.

A year later, Pippin is in clinical remission.

“So no sign of cancer right now,” he confirmed.

Pippin is moving forward, learning and growing in theater, and uplifting others through the process.

“Your memories come back up on Facebook, and last year at this time he was doing the stem cells which they were collecting to save for him if he needs them,” explained Heidi, “And so to see him go from that to being up on stage dancing and singing and having a great time…I couldn't be more proud.”

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