Why Is Everything Different Once You’re Onstage?

December 16, 2007

I thought I knew the Nutcracker music cold, but when I was out there, everything was different. (I was playing the Maid in Irine Fokine’s 50th Nutcracker with just one rehearsal under my belt—see previous blog.) There is one part where the Maid, with coats and jackets piled high in her arms, staggers across the front of the stage. I knew it happened on the second 8 of what I think of as the Grand Music. Every time I looked at the DVD of a previous performance, I was very clear where the Grand Music came in: It’s after the light-and-gracious music of families entering and greeting. But when I got the coats in my arms, I had a moment of panic and wondered if I had missed it or if I should wait. I took the plunge and made the crossing. Luckily, just in time, for then the owl-clock started striking and the mood changed.

    My Maid mentor (16-year old Jazmine Shovlin) had shown me exactly where to place the chair at the end of the Party Scene so that it would be in the right place for Clara to stand on top of when the mice attacked her. It was the middle of three sets of red spike marks. When she had shown me before the performance, the wings were up in the flies because the stage wasn’t set up yet. Now, while performing, the spikes looked too close to the wings. After I moved the chair, I confided to my pal the Butler, “I’m not sure I put the chair in the right place.” He said, “It’s OK, I’ll put it back.” I think he got the nod from Miss Fokine, sitting in the downstage wing, to reset it.

    Jazmine very kindly prompted me from the wing on the exact timing of when I blow out the “candles” on the Xmas tree after the Silberhouse family goes to bed. Bless her. The candles went out at the right time.

    I got to watch the rest of Act I from backstage, and Act II from out front. ATheannual guest artists Slawomir Wozniak and Rachel Cahayla-Wynne, brought a classy elegance to Sugar Plum (I still think Fokine’s pas de deux is the closest to Petipa we’ll ever see, as Miss Fokine’s mother, Alexandra Fedorova, was in the original Petipa-Ivanov production); Eugene Petrov was spectacular in the Russian dance; and the students were aglow with performance energy. And Jon Decker, Miss Fokine’s son, is the most delightfully scary Drosselmeyer I’ve ever seen.

    Before the show, there was some speech-making and reunion-making, and a proclamation was read that was signed by William Jefferson Clinton (yes, really!). In case that wasn’t momentous enough, there was a bomb scare in the parking lot after the show. Someone was trying to get kids out of the basement, so girls wearing toe shoes and little else were running outside. (Later we learned that the bomb squad x-rayed and then detonated the suspicious package.)

    A crew from CBS Sunday Morning filmed the whole thing for a segment on Fokine’s 50th Nutcracker to air December 23.

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