The Buzz with Steven Sabel
Entertainment Holidays and Beyond
Grants Pass is full of annual traditions, especially at holiday time, including a variety of entertainment options the entire family can enjoy. In addition to holiday tree lighting festivities and the ever-popular Evergreen Federal Bank fiberoptic greeting cards, downtown Grants Pass is aglow with light post snowflakes and giant nutcrackers stand as sentries overlooking elaborately decorated store fronts as part of the Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce window decorating contest.
As delightful as a holiday stroll through downtown’s busy shops and unique restaurants can be, indoor entertainment options also grace the stages of our local performance venues every year. From the traditional “Nutcracker” ballet to iconic classic Christmas tales, to “non-nutcracker” dance performance options and alternative storylines, the performing arts scene in and around Grants Pass presents a thriving collection of entertainment options throughout the holidays and beyond.
Stillpoint Productions presents the 31st annual “Nutcracker” Ballet Dec. 10-18, at the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center. The production is directed and choreographed by Penny King and Jocelyn Schmidt — both of whom were “raised in this ballet,” said King.
King said they try to keep the annual production “close to the tradition” of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet, but new talent each year always leads to a new and exciting production. “Our cast is different every year because we don’t know who is going to show up for auditions,” she said. New talent calls for adjusting the production to “make it work,” said King. “The storytelling aspect of the show is a major emphasi.”
Two performers are returning this year to roles they have played before: Joanna and Andrew Pitzak as Mama and Papa. It is common to have multiple members of various families involved in the show, said King. “Many of the families involved have a long history with us.”
This year, the coveted role of Clara is performed by Kaiya Snodgrass. The 13-year-old dancer has worked her way up to Clara over the years by performing various other roles in past productions. “Audience members love seeing the students work their way from a present or bon-bon through angels and mice to someday hopefully reaching the heights of Sugar Plum Fairies and perhaps even a shot at Clara,” said King. Elizabeth Hankins is another one of those students. This year, Hankins performs the role of the Rat Queen. “She’s been with us since she was just tiny.”
Rented backdrops make full use of the fly system at the PAC and combine with classic set pieces to create the vivid scenes of the ballet. Various props get rebuilt and/or replaced from year to year and costumes are “cycled” through to keep the production looking fresh. The occasional rental costume comes into play as well, she said.
The accompaniment of Tchaikovsky’s music is provided through a “potpourri” of recordings from different orchestras. Most of the pieces are selected by the choreographers, usually based on the tempos.
Rosa Rose joins the choreography team this year to provide the Chinese and Arabian doll dance sequences so popular in Act Two. Rose also doubles as the stage manager of the production. A large group of volunteers work backstage operating the fly system, moving set pieces, coordinating dancers and more. Additional volunteers staff the front of house and serve as ushers. “It’s a true family affair for multiple generations.”
“This is going to be a really good year. It’s a great blend of children and families who have done it before and newcomers to the experience,” King said. “Energy around this year’s production is exciting to feel.”
Performances: 7 p.m. Dec. 10 & 17, 2 p.m. Dec. 11, 17, & 18, www.gpnutcracker.org, (541)476-4641
“A Christmas Story”
Celebrating the holidays with their 71st season of productions, Barnstormers Theatre returns to a well-known classic play based on the iconic film, “A Christmas Story.”
This year the production is under the leadership of director Feather LaFever with Allen taking the stage as Ralphie’s father. Audience favorite, John Weber, returns to reprise his role as the grown-up Ralph, narrating his fondest Christmas memories.
“Though director, LaFever and assistant director, Jonas Stewart, held roles in the previous productions, they are decking the halls with a fresh vision,” said Madeline DeCourcey, production coordinator. Audiences who enjoyed sold-out performances of the past, will be treated to some new improvements, including a life-sized slide and multi-media magic. “The holiday show always has a special something that comes from the family and friends who perform onstage together,” said DeCourcey, who also serves as the costumer of the production. “Generations storytelling and making memories together truly is the spirit of the season.”
Performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 2 – Dec. 18, www.barnstormersgp.com, (541)479-3557
“Land of Sweets”
Heartland Dance Studio will present “Land of Sweets” and “Land of Sweets, Jr.” performances at the Performing Arts Center this season for the friends and family members of its corps of dancers. Described as a “non-Nutcracker,” the production tells the story of Angelina, younger sister to the famous Clara, who has longed for an opportunity to step out of Clara’s shadow. Together, with Auntie Drosselmeyer (performed by Laurel Kehoe), Angelina goes on a quest to find the lost nutcracker.
“We had a very clear story we wanted to go with,” said Brent Kehoe, executive director. “We are going off what the parents want for their students,” said Kehoe, including splitting the production into two casts to accommodate the large number of younger dancers taking classes at the studio. “A lot of parents requested a junior show so they could see their children perform more, but also learn from the older, more experienced dancers,” Kehoe said.
More than 120 younger dancers fill roles in the junior production. The more advanced dancers serve as guest performers, including a number of dancers from Southern Oregon Dance Center. Heartland’s advanced dancers also form the studio’s Youth Leadership Council to help guide annual production plans and performance aspects.
Some of the production aspects of “Land of Sweets” are very “fairytale like” said Kehoe, and the accompaniment is a mix of Tchaikovsky and a wide variety of other music selected by the choreographers. Some of the changes include hip-hop gnomes, dancing peacocks and a collective of pixies.
Ticket availability is limited to those who know a performer in the show. Each dancer is provided with 10 tickets to each performance for friends and family members to attend. “The PAC is a big venue, but we have alot of dancers, and the seats fill up fast,” Kehoe said.
Performances: 6 p.m. Dec. 2, 3, & 4, 2 p.m. Dec. 3 & 4, www.heartlanddancestudio.com, (541)450-5283
The Rogue Theatre
Tommy Emmanuel | Dec. 10 @ 8 pm
Mat Kearney Acoustic Trio Tour
w/ Marc Scibilia | Feb. 5 @ 8 pm
The Lone Bellow | Feb. 10 @ 8 pm
Collaborative Theatre Project
Little Women | Nov. 25 – Jan. 1
Directed By Susan Aversa
Matilda: The Musical | Nov. 23 – Dec. 31
Directed by Olivia Carbone
Oregon Cabaret Theatre
A Christmas Carol | Nov. 17 – Dec. 31
White Christmas | Dec. 1 – Jan. 1
(OSF Thomas Theatre)
OSF Angus Bowmer Theatre
It’s Christmas, Carol! | Nov. 23 – Jan. 1
Directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh
Beyond the Holidays….
Spotlight On Sondheim | Jan. 19 – Feb. 12
Rogue Valley Shakespeare Company
at Belle Fiore Estate Winery
For The Love of Shakespeare
Feb. 3 & 4 @ 7:30 pm
Oregon Cabaret Theatre
The Play That Goes Wrong | Feb. 3 – April 2
Lockdown | Feb. 17 – March 5
Directed By Keith Fuller