A far cry from transportation design, I was surprised to find myself invited to perform as Herr Drosselmyer in a local production of the Nutcracker Ballet in the fall of 2009. I had previously performed with a local dance studio in their annual recital as a member of a group, but never as a lead character. This was a quantum leap for my performance skills. Fortunately, I was not being asked to dance.
That first year, I was just trying to remember my parts correctly and stay out of everyone’s way. Through the years, I’ve gained confidence and have found ways to build my character and breathe some life into him. By the third year, I had even developed enough confidence to perform a few simple magic tricks on stage. Every year, I try to introduce something different.
Rehearsals for me and the other adults start in mid-November and conclude with a full dress rehearsal at the venue a few days prior to the first performance. The full rehearsals are fun, but also a lot of work and very time consuming (lasting four to six hours).
The moments leading up to the start of each performance are the most fun. Everyone is a little antsy and nervous, but in a good way. Fortunately, the first two shows are always for elementary-school-aged kids who are easy to please and impress. They “ooh” and “ah” at the ballet dancers and cheer and laugh throughout the shows. The girls always love the lead character Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy, while the boys seem to like my character and the Mouse King (who is hyper and easy for the boys to enjoy).
There are, of course, the occasional mishaps or odd moments. One year, the girl portraying Clara kept losing her hairpiece on stage. During one performance, the magical cane I use, that appears from nowhere, went off in my jacket pocket. That was rather awkward. Perhaps the funniest moment (at least for us performers) was when one corner of the fabric roll that drops “snowflakes” onto the Snowflake ballet dancers gave way, and a large drift of “snow” avalanched onto one dancer.
By the end of the last show, I am a little drained, as it can be an intense experience doing five shows in two and a half days. But at the same time, I’m also feeling a little more energized as I’ve got a bit more of the Christmas Spirit.