The Full Story
Sets and Props for The Nutcracker
Curious about the sets and props used in The Nutcracker? Read on to learn about our backstage crew and what they do before and during the production:
Preparing the Sets
Production meetings start about 4 months before the curtain opens on the first show. Initial concept discussions turn into sketching and design of actual pieces that will be built for the production. Our technical crew meets with the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center staff a couple months before opening – to discuss everything from front-of-house preparations to technical challenges to staffing and any special effects needed.
The Sets team is led by Jesse Sauceda and they are responsible for all the hanging and freestanding items you see on stage – anything that isn’t carried by the dancers. Backdrops, furniture, and any of the other large items you may see – in The Nutcracker, these are things like the Christmas Tree, the grandfather clock and other furniture in Clara’s home, or the dais Clara and the Prince sit on in Act II. Much is re-used in an annual show like the Nutcracker, but each year a few things change or get added or deleted to make the productions fresh.
Image: Joe Sevruk works on a "giant" version of Clara's candle
Tara Fox and Emily Tabor lead our Props crew. This team is responsible for anything carried on or offstage by our dancers.
This year we have more party guests than ever before, so we need more wine glasses – Props to the rescue! Glass is not used onstage for safety in case of breakage - so plastic glasses must be used. Liquids are also problematic, so colored epoxy is used to simulate clear liquids.
We are using a new Nutcracker this year, and it needs to be rigged to break every show – in the same way every time - and be easily put back together on stage. Props figured out how to do it – watch during the performance and see if you can determine how it works!
This team tracks everything used during the performance - trays, glasses, food, swords, flags, etc. and makes sure these items are where they need to be at all times – no easy feat!
Image: Epoxy "Champagne" is poured into plastic glasses
The very first step when we get to the theatre is to lay the Marley, a specialized dance surface that allows our pointe dancers to get the proper grip and cushioning they need, as they cannot dance safely on the wooden stage deck that is in place. This process takes our backstage team, led by Jason Sanders, about an hour during which others are assembling large set pieces, finishing the load-in from the truck, and beginning to organize the backstage area for the week of rehearsals leading up to the show.
During the performances, backstage activity needs to be choreographed just like what you see on stage – various set pieces and props are placed at critical times exactly where they need to be for dancers to run off stage and find in just seconds. Set pieces are organized in the order used, and scene changes are a flurry of activity hidden from view – battens flying in to re-hang backdrops, large pieces moving on and off stage, all choreographed around the dancers who need to move quickly to new positions in the wings. When the curtain opens again a few seconds after the team finishes a scene change, the audience sees a different setting – and never knows what it takes to create the magic.
Experience the magic of The Nutcracker with us!
Image: Rolls of Marley dance flooring at the theatre, ready to be unrolled and taped