Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Behind the Scenes

Last week I had the chance to see The Nutcracker ballet from backstage at McCaw Hall. For non-Seattleites, McCaw Hall is the big opera house and the theatre where Pacific Northwest Ballet performs. I've been going to see The Nutcracker for years, and I've seen a lot of operas there too.

They do the same Nutcracker every year. Same music, same sets, same costumes. It's been the same for as long as I can remember, so I know it back to front. That's why it was extra exciting to be able to see it from a different perspective.

We were expecting to be led backstage and told, "Sit here, don't move." Instead, they led us backstage, told us where to put our belongings down, and then said, "You can go where you like. If you can see the audience, they can see you, if a boat or a bed or a tree is about to fly at you, we'll tell you to get out of the way." We got to wander around the stage before the show, seeing the backs of walls and all the stickers and graffiti with which they've been adorned over the years. We got to see how the Christmas tree grows, how they run the waves, how the Mouse King works, how they make it snow. We saw ballerinas adjusting leotards, doing stretches, and spitting out the snow.

For me, theatre is one of the few realms where knowing how it works doesn't spoil the illusion. Knowing that one of the guys who carries on the bird cage makes a fish on a stick jump out of the waves just makes the illusion more interesting. But then, I'm a theatre geek.

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