I am in the back row of “Nutcracker 2023” warmups on the high school stage. My head is by the pre-set elaborate Christmas tree, decorated with gingerbread ornaments and glittery glass balls, surrounded by stacks of giant presents in the parlor room for the party scene of Act 1.
I’m half paying attention to what 40 or so children are doing and focused mostly on the series of scene drops above my head, thinking back to the history of time, love and dedication in the Homer High School Mariner Theater, what we do backstage and all of the details of props and supported technology of making the stage work. Or, just the magic of the stage.
Three days later, my children are getting final fittings for costumes in the semidark “tomb” stocked with historical costumes up the plywood stairs from the theater tech shop. Decades of dedicated work are donated here by seamstresses sewing all of the hours the kids are onstage or rehearsing in the backstage greenroom.
A photo to the right of the tomb door shows a cast photo of “Nutcracker” Year One and current mom and costume constructor Jennifer Cabana and I browse at it and identify everyone we still know involved, many second-generation participants.
This is 2023 and we all still fret about hemlines and glitter details. Someone casually mentions what I am supposed to be wearing for the party scene as a “party parent” and why. Snow bodices are restructured as tightly as necessary.
The Queen Rat character, my daughter, is adamant to show me and proud of the current details of her costume set on a mannequin tucked away in all of the chaos of material, gear, machines and snacks in the costume room: an elaborate rat mask, cape, a black tutu. A few days later she’s excited to wear it with all the details in rehearsal mode.
After “battle”, she has a quick change to “snow” and I’m happy to help with the transition but so are two or three of her dancer friends and all of the other moms in the greenroom. I think the kids actually enjoy the quick transitions and all the details it takes to change from a rat to a snowflake, from black to white. She tosses the rat pieces quickly aside and rushes out with her helpers just in time for the start of snow.
But, aside from the tension and chaos of logistical details and organization, the production is an exceptional opportunity for everyone. We’re in it together and everyone seems welcome and hopeful to stay involved. I am.
Stage time (and backstage, for that matter) is also an easy place to lose track of real time. It passes differently when we’re watching the dancers get off the train in the party and perform their parts again and again at the front of the stage: the gypsies, the windup doll, the phoenix and the mermaid.
Or, when all of the girls rush back into the greenroom to switch into their solo costumes for bows.
Or, even straightening everything up after a day of two performances. In some ways it feels like part of a different world. I had an audience friend, not a performer, mention that to me after one of the shows last weekend, “This is a world I know nothing about.”
I know for those of us who do know the stage and the wings, the props and gear and, like I mentioned first, looking up at all the sets hanging high up above us, it’s a place of comfort and we’ll be excited to do it all again next year.