Left-Leaning 'Nutcracker Suite' Sets A Sour Scene
SCOTT SIMON, host:
'Tis the season for "The Nutcracker." No matter where you are, there's likely a version being performed onstage or bellowing from a radio nearby. One production in San Francisco is decorated with a grab-bag of political causes.
April Dembosky reports on "The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie."
(Soundbite of music, "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy")
APRIL DEMBOSKY: At the Dance Mission Studios in San Francisco, young girls learn a civics lesson, along with their plies.
Ms. FREDERICKA KEEFER (Ballet Dancer): I'm Fredericka Keefer and I play Sugarplum.
Ms. STELLA EDELMAN (Ballet Dancer): My name is Stella Edelman. I get to play the Mouse King.
Ms. MADISON PARKER (Ballet Dancer): I'm Madison Parker and I'm a narrator. I'm in "Waltz of the Flowers," and I'm also playing Paris Hilton.
DEMBOSKY: Krissy Keefer is the writer and director of "The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie."
Ms. KEEFER: We are a political dance company in that we try to make work that is socially relevant, that is responding to the real ideas and real needs of people today in the community.
DEMBOSKY: It all starts on the night of the big party at the home of the richest family in town - the McGreeds. Guests mingle around the red velvet couch and chair; four "Swan Lake" ballerinas arrive in tutus, then aerobics teachers in workout gear, and ninjas from "The Matrix." There is a narrator who stands under chilly twinkle lights reciting the guest list.
Ms. PARKER (as Narrator): Landlord, lawyers wealthy old prunes, a bevy of brokers, a tribe of tycoons, movie stars, baseball stars, Flash with Cash, I hear even Paris Hilton was trying to crash.
DEMBOSKY: In this "Nutcracker," there is no dutiful daughter Clara waiting for a Christmas gift from her Uncle Drosselmeyer. There are three Clara's - they are Latino immigrants working in the house of Mr. and Mrs. McGreed.
Ms. KEEFER: The first scene we see are the three Clara's getting ready for the party. Mrs. McGreed comes in and she wants their attention right away, and...
(Soundbite of from "The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie")
Ms. EDELMAN (as Mrs. McGreed): Clara. Clara, can you put some ice in my drink? Thank you, precious. And Clara, can you get me some aspirin? I just have a terrible headache.
Ms. KEEFER: And then Drosselmeyer comes home, and he's the McGreed's oldest son.
DEMBOSKY: Their gay son - in a Che Guevara T-shirt and a pink Mohawk.
Ms. KEEFER: And he travels all over world and he brings all these dolls from all over the world. And he gives one of the dolls to Clara and it's a freedom fighter. And that freedom fighter turns into a real person and takes Clara on a journey of self-discovery.
And a-one, two, three, four.
DEMBOSKY: At rehearsals leading up to the show, Keefer directs the performers through each dance of Clara's journey.
Ms. KEEFER: Shase, attitude, around, pull up.
DEMBOSKY: There's a snow dance where ice caps melt in the background.
Ms. KEEFER: Tonlea, tonlea.
DIMBOSKY: The Sugar Plum fairy battles the Mouse King of British Petroleum.
Ms. KEEFER: Dada dita dada dada dada da. Dada dita dada dada da.
(Soundbite of music)
DEMBOSKY: And Code Pink makes a guest appearance in the triumphant anti-war dance.
Ms. KEEFER: Shane, shane, shane, shane...
DEMBOSKY: The politically themed "Nutcracker" is a kind of revolution for dancers too. They get to sneak in a few hip-hop and salsa steps with their Tchaikovsky.
For NPR News, I'm April Dembosky.
(Soundbite of music)
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