Every December, the Stahlbaum family holds a lavish party in San Francisco. Actually almost thirty parties over two and a half weeks, and invitations are very hard to come by. Only 12 girls are invited each year, and they get to attend more than a dozen Stahlbaum parties each! While playing any part in SF Ballet’s Nutcracker is exciting, being a party girl is particularly fun. You wear a beautiful dress, get your hair curled into ringlets, dance to music played by a live orchestra, have incredible Company dancers acting as your parents, and are onstage for almost 30 minutes.
The party scene has much more detail than what the audience can see. Every party-goer has a name and belongs in a certain family, all of whom are connected to the Stahlbaums. I play the role of Rose Greene, and I have two siblings, Daisy and Henry Jr. We’re a prominent San Francisco family and are old friends of the Stahlbaums. (Waiting backstage one night before a show, my onstage family imagined that my dad, Henry Greene, is an accountant, and that we own a candy store and know the Ghirardelli family.)
My family appears in the prologue, walking up the sidewalk outside Clara’s house in winter coats. My sister and I stop at the flower vendor and want to buy a bouquet, but my mother tells us we’ll be late, and we climb the stairs to the Stahlbaum’s front door. We’re met by their strict, unsmiling maid Gertrude, who beckons us into the foyer with a nod. We walk down a hallway, where on the wall hang old-fashioned prints of flowers (out of sight of the audience but maintaining the ambiance). We then rush down a rickety set of stairs into the wings, where members of the costume department take our coats, mufflers, and fancy white gloves. We then rush up another set of backstage stairs (as the prologue staircases we just used roar past backstage for the scene change). Minutes later we descend the elegant staircase into the Stahlbaum’s living room along with the second, more cheerful maid, Bridget and the rest of the children.
In addition to Clara and her brother Fritz, there are eleven party children: Rose, Daisy, and Henry Greene Jr., Susan and Bobby Blum, Maria, Dominic and Anthony Viola, and Butch, Grace, and Carolina Pessego. Each character has a specific costume and role to play throughout the party scene. When the maids Gertrude and Bridget hand out Christmas presents, each girl has a specific gift. I get a Chinese doll, and my sister gets a stuffed bear, a replica of the bear who emerges from Madame du Cirque’s skirt in the second act.
There is one moment left unscripted. After Clara’s (spoiler alert!) broken nutcracker is fixed, she selects a party girl by putting her arm around her and leading over to the couch. The chosen party girl gets to sit on the couch (which later swirls around in the battle scene) with Clara and touch the nutcracker. Everyone wants to sit on the couch!
At the end of the party my sister falls asleep on a chair, Mrs. Pessego has a bit too much champagne, gets dizzy, and has to sit down, and everyoneyawns. We’re all sorry to leave, and can’t wait for the next party, either four hours or a few days later, depending on casting!
The children cast in Party Scene are students from SF Ballet School’s Levels 1-4. They are chosen from a school-wide audition that is held every September.