A Play by David Hammond
Based on the fairy tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann
Illustration by Bill Burgard
December 4 - 6 at 8 PM
December 7 at 2 PM
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About E.T.A. Hoffmann
E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) A German novelist, short story writer, painter, caricaturist and composer, Hoffmann was actually a lawyer and eventually a judge on the Supreme Court of Appeals by trade who pursued his artistic endeavors in his spare time. Hoffmann is best known for his work as a writer in the realm of the bizarre and the supernatural - his work is often cited as a precursor to the Surrealist writer's movement and the modern horror genre. Offenbach's opera, "The Tales of Hoffmann," is a dramatic telling of Hoffmann's influential writing and "double life." Living as government official by day and writer by night, Hoffmann often found himself attempting to balance his criticisms of government and society with his career in the law. He was well-acquainted with the idea of duality of life that permeates his stories. Near the end of his career, Hoffmann caricatured governmental officials and proceedings in his stories and was brought on charges, which he narrowly escaped when he died in 1822. "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" (1816) is just one of Hoffmann's tales that has been adapted to performance. Delibes's ballet, "Coppelia" and Hindensmith's opera, "Cardilliac," are also based on Hoffmann's writing. Hoffmann's major works include "Sandman" (1814), "The Golden Pot" (1814) and "Mademoiselle De Scudery" (1819).
"Fairy tales, unlike any other form of literature, direct the child to discover his identity and calling, and they also suggest what experiences are needed to develop his character further. Fairy tales intimate that a rewarding, good life is within one's grasp despite adversity - but only if one does not shy away from the hazardous struggles without which one can never achieve true identity. These stories promise that if a child dares engage in this fearsome arid taxing search, benevolent powers will come to his aid, and he will succeed. The stories also warn that those who are too timorous and narrow-minded to risk themselves in finding themselves must settle down to a humdrum existence - if an even worse fate does not befall them."
- Bruno Bettelheim, "The Uses of Enchantment"
"Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss."
- Charles Dickens
E.T.A. Hoffmann's tales mark the pivotal shift between classicism and romanticism in literature. His three fairy tales, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," "The Mysterious Child," and "Master Flea," are structured around a confrontation between good and evil, and the gap between humanity's ideal vision of life and its daily existence. They present a better world, as one of his characters says, for "those who have eyes to see it." They open up a world of beauty to children and to those of us still capable of tapping into our own childlike temperament.
"The Nutcracker" is perhaps Hoffmann's most familiar work; however its familiarity is due to our knowledge not of his fairy tale, but of the Tchaikovsky ballet. As Jack Anderson's book, "The Nutcracker Ballet," makes clear, there is a huge difference between the ballet and Hoffmann's original tale. The ballet's scenario is a hybrid concoction by Tchaikovsky's collaborators, Ivan Ajexandrovitch Vsevolojsky, director of St. Petersburg's Imperial Theater, and the choreographer, Marius Petipa. Rather than returning to Hoffmann's tale, the two writers based their scenario on Alexandre Dumas' popular French version of the story, "The Nutcracker of Nuremberg." The balletic version, so familiar to audiences today, not only smooths out the difficult, confusing aspects of Hoffmann's plot, it also removes its dark, weird underbelly. Tchaikovsky's score, with its erotic suggestions, is much closer in tone to Hoffmann's original tale.
The major dramatic problem with the Nutcracker ballet is its elimination of Hoffmann's tale within a tale, "The Story of the Hard Nut." "The Story of the Hard Nut" gives the tale coherent dramatic sense and deeper psychological meaning. It is important not only for plot development, but because it presents a rather harsh satire of life dominated by humanity's more primitive instincts. PlayMakers' adaptation of The Nutcracker restores "The Story of the Hard Nut" and makes plain that the battle between the mice and the nutcracker is ultimately resolved in victory through the determined faith of an innocent child. That child comes to realize that she can only grow herself if she aids another human being. Hoffmann's entire theme is encapsulated in the figure of the nutcracker himself who, constantly manipulated by others, can only become human through the selfless devotion of another.
- Courtesy Adam Versenyi, Dramaturg, PlayMakers Repertory Company
|For more history on "The Nutcracker" visit the following website:
From our Newsletter|
The story of E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 children's fable "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" is well known to audiences worldwide ... as a ballet. But a new dramatic version of the story is equally magical. And with performances running December 4-7 at the Power Center, "The Nutcracker" remains a perfect way to begin the holiday season.
Playwright David Hammond (the artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC) developed "The Nutcracker: A Play" by revisiting Hoffmann's tale and expanding on the characters, adding details that will likely be unfamiliar to audience members who have only seen the ballet. His creation is a play that has everything you've come to expect from quality family entertainment. While the magical worlds and characters of the famous story are amusing for children, "The Nutcracker" is also compelling storytelling for adults.
The play introduces the audience to the young Stahlbaum children, Marie and Fritz, who are visited one Christmas by their magical and mysterious godfather, Drosselmeier. Drosselmeier presents the children with a special gift, a wonderful nutcracker doll, which Marie receives with an admonishment: "Stay loyal to him ... and he will serve you well." During the night Marie fancies that a party of agile rodents, led by the evil Mouserinks, comes to steal the nutcracker. Only Drosselmeier can comfort her. By telling her "The Story of the Hard Nut," a tale about how the gift nutcracker came to be, he encourages Marie back to sleep. Drosselmeier's story is fantastical. It includes a magic sword, ingenious curses, a mouse queen, and a nosy spider. It also tells a tale of true love between a brave lad named Christian who has been transformed into a nutcracker until, once every hundred years, he has the opportunity to crack the hardest nut in the land and break the curse placed on his true love, a beautiful princess. Marie realizes that Christian is her nutcracker and she begs Drosselmeier to accompany her and the other children in an effort to help him break the spell.
Playwright Hammond says the play is "really about growing up and how the most successful progression into adulthood involves the assimilation of certain very basic things [that children have] that many [adults have lost]."
Interestingly, Hoffmann's original "The Nutcracker" was not so much a story for children as one about children and a series of mystical events that took place one Christmas. The story was typical to the bizarre and sometimes supernatural tales that were the hallmarks of Hoffmann's career.
The product of a broken home, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (he changed his third baptismal name from Wilhelm to Amadeus in reverence for the composer) was raised primarily by an uncle. He trained as a lawyer, and practiced the law in Prussia until Napoleon's armies conquered the area. He then turned to his true passion, music, as his primary occupation, taking on positions as conductor, critic, and theatrical musical director. It was only when he recognized that he would never be a great composer that he turned to writing. Music, however, was central theme in most of his works. His story Ritter Gluck, for example, dealt with the madness and possession in a musician who believes that he is the composer Gluck. Interestingly, Hoffmann himself created an alter ego in the form of an imaginary musician, Johannes Kreisler, in order to pursue his interpretations of music. During his literary career Hoffmann wrote two novels, "The Devil's Elixir" (1816) and "The Life and Opinions of Kater Murr," with a Fragmentary Biography of Conductor Johannes Kreisler. But he is best known for his short stories, of which he wrote more than 50.
Using his imagination to combine mysterious, sometimes macabre images with elements from the human psyche, Hoffmann's tales are considered by many to be the first examples of the horror and fantasy short story. Notable writers including Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Hans Christian Andersen acknowledge that they were influenced by Hoffmann storytelling.
- Joel Aalberts
UM THEATRE DEPARTMENT PRESENTS A DRAMATIC NEW TELLING OF THE HOLIDAY FAVORITE, "THE NUTCRACKER"
ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan's Department of Theatre and Drama presents "The Nutcracker," a play by David Hammond. A testament to the power of devotion and courage and the journey from childhood to adulthood, The Nutcracker will run for four performances December 4-6, 8pm, and December 7, 2pm at the Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor. A fairy tale for children, adults will enjoy the spectacular elements of the story as well as the ultimate premise of good winning out over evil and that dreams can come true.
Most people are familiar with the ballet version of "The Nutcracker", a staple of American holiday theatre. However, most ballets are based on an adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 children's fable which eliminated much of Hoffmann's story. Born in 1776, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was deeply interested in music, but failed as a composer. Better known for his literary works, which influenced such authors as Gogol, Pushkin, and Poe, Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" offers a more dramatic and theatrical version than the ballet typically treats. The dramatic adaptation of the story by David Hammond, which premiered at PlayMakers Repertory Theatre in North Carolina, allies the play more closely with the original Hoffmann fable to include the heart of HoffmannÕs original novella, "The Story of the Hard Nut." According to Hammond, "[Hoffmann's story] had the great line that a classic fairy tale has...the classic romance where a young couple goes into an enchanted place where they undergo trial and then they emerge better informed, better equipped to deal with the real world."
The production starts out as people familiar with the classic tale might expect: Marie Stahlbaum and her brother Fritz enjoy their family's Christmas party, relishing their gifts, most particularly the nutcracker presented to them by their mysterious Godfather Drosselmeier. During the night Marie fancies that a party of agile rodents, led by the evil Queen Mouserinks, comes to steal the nutcracker. Drosselmeier comforts her by telling her "The Story of the Hard Nut," a tale of true love between a brave lad named Christian who has been transformed into a nutcracker until, once every hundred years, he has the opportunity to crack the hardest nut in the land and break the curse placed on his true love, a beautiful princess. The children and Drosselmeier are drawn into the mysterious world of the mice in an effort to break the spell. Absent in the production are the Sugar Plum Fairy and her world of sweets. Instead, the story focuses on Christian's struggle to regain his humanity from the evil Queen Mouserinks and her cohorts.
Director Neville-Andrews is especially excited about the elaborate special effects and spectacle involved in order to create the fantastical elements of this production. "It's very deceptive because a lot of the play is in the stage directions. It could be extremely simple or very large, expansive, and full of stage effects, wonderment and magic. We've actually expanded the script by adding carols and increasing the role of the mice. The design elements have a large role in creating the different worlds of reality, the mouse kingdom and world of the hard nut."
Creating the design elements of the story are costume designer Christianne Myers ("Hamlet," "Xerxes"), scenic and lighting designer Rob Murphy ("Hamlet," "Xerxes"), and sound designer Henry Reynolds ("A Streetcar Named Desire," "The Grapes of Wrath"), all faculty members in the Dept. of Theatre and Drama. According to director Neville-Andrews, "the script leaves a lot for you to experiment with and conceptualize. The costume design is the most comprehensive and Christianne is an inventive designer. With the set, we wanted the mice to be able to infiltrate the house as if they were living in the walls and the settings grow larger as we move from reality into the fairy tale. Sound is extremely important. It's an element that helps creates the atmosphere and tone of the play as well as underlining the characters with their own theme music." School of Music composition student Katie Kring has composed original music for the show, which will be played live. Her creations combine traditional holiday carols with new work.
"The Nutcracker" is a tribute to the late Claribel Baird Halstead, professor emeritus in the Dept. of Theatre and Drama and a longtime supporter of the theatre at University of Michigan. Ms. Halstead was instrumental to the creation of the U of M theatre department. In her honor, the production will feature members of the community and the UM School of Music at large, including Associate Dean Steven Whiting in the role of Drosselmeier along with Dept. of Theatre and Drama associate professor Annette Masson. Additionally, three of Mrs. Halstead's longtime friends, Phyllis Wright, Jim Piper, and Judy Dow Rumelhart, play prominent roles in the production.
"The Nutcracker" is made possible through a generous gift from Thomas and Polly Bredt. The production is also sponsored in part by the University of Michigan Credit Union.
Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $8 with ID. Tickets are available at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted. The Power Center for the Performing Arts, located at 121 Fletcher Street, is handicapped accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.
- Kerianne M. Tupac
A Tribute to Claribel Baird Halstead|
1904 - 2003
Claribel Buford Baird Halstead, a distinguished actress, professor emeritus, and director at the University of Michigan since the 1930s, died April 4, 2003 of pneumonia at the age of 99.
Claribel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1925 from the Oklahoma College for Women in her hometown of Chickasha, Oklahoma. She earned a Master of Arts in Speech from the University of Michigan in 1936. Claribel returned to OCW to teach speech and theatre from 1927-47. During that time, she would meet and become lifelong friends with longtime local Ann Arbor actress Phyllis Wright, who portrays Aunt Clara in this production of "The Nutcracker." Wright's relationship with Claribel went back some 70 years to when Phyllis was one of Baird's students at OCW. "I wanted to act," said Wright, "and I had to choose between Northwestern and OCW as the place I'd go to school. I chose OCW, and because of Claribel I never regretted it."
During her career at the Oklahoma College for Women, Claribel came to Michigan for the 1937Š1947 summer sessions as a Visiting Lecturer and Guest Director for Michigan Repertory Players. Almost immediately, the University began courting her to come to Michigan. "[My] appointment has a humorous side. I had first been offered an assistant professorship, but Val Windt [UM Professor of Speech and Director of Play Production, 1928-1956] urged me to wait for associate rank. I asked what difference it made. He thought a moment and said, 'It's a tenured position; you can't be fired, well, I suppose you could be if you were caught in adultery on the corner of State and William!' I didn't expect to be in that position, but I took his advice and waited."
In 1948 she moved to Ann Arbor as an Associate Professor following the death of her first husband Bernard Baird. "I recall getting off the train on a February day at what is now the Gandy Dancer in my high heels and stepping into snow knee-deep. I thought 'What have I done!' and wished for Oklahoma and home. Once in the classroom I was happy." Claribel earned her full professorship in 1961, and was a driving force in the Theatre Department until her retirement in 1974. She directed more than 40 productions for the University Players and Michigan Repertory while teaching courses in Acting, Characterization in Shakespeare, Greek Drama (a course she initiated), and the Interpretation of Modern Poetry.
In 1952, Baird married U-M drama professor William Halstead (1906-1982), who two years later became chairman of theater, a post he held until his retirement in 1975. During that period and afterward, the couple became living legends in their devotion to stage art. In the 1960s they helped form the Association of Production Arts, the university's first professional theater company in residence, which regularly employed famous thespians in shows that moved to Broadway following out-of-town tryouts at Michigan. Additionally, Claribel and Dr. Halstead were avid supporters of the Michigan football team; "Football days were as important as opening nights." Dr. Halstead died in 1982 on the way to the Rose Bowl game.
A supremely versatile actress, Claribel also played dozens of roles in productions at Michigan and as a guest artist elsewhere. Walter Kerr of "The New York Times" nominated her for a New York Critics' Award following her performance on Broadway as the Grand Duchess Olga in "You Can't Take it With You." Wrote Kerr: "A last-act entrance is generally a quick fat part written in to make the final curtain merrier, and it is often so very often - hoke. Miss Baird makes it caviar, iced, with onion and egg-white. Under a halter of furs, a bib of jewelry, and a long tumble of black lace, she plays the gaudy relic as something magnificently real, tart, overwhelmed with common sense." Ellis Rabb, Director of the Association of Producing Artists, described her as "the embodiment and inspiration for all that is significant of a vital jointure between the educational theatre and the professional theatre."
Claribel served three terms as chair of the Board of Governors of the Michigan League, eight years on the Board of Governors of the American Educational Theatre Association, and seven years on the board of the University Drama Season. She was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Theatre Association in 1979 "in recognition of continuous and outstandingly meritorious service to the educational theatre in this nation." She also earned the Michigan Governor's Award for concerned Citizens of the Arts in Michigan in 1989, and was awarded by the Washtenaw Council of the Arts in 1995. In 1993 the Michigan School of Music established the William and Claribel Halstead Scholarship Endowment for students in the Theatre Department, which is co-chaired by actor James Earl Jones. The Music School founded the Claribel Baird Halstead Professorship in 1995.
Claribel continued to serve voluntarily as a coach and adviser on Michigan theatrical productions after her retirement. Professor Philip Kerr notes that Baird Halstead "attended every show, and always wanted to talk about it afterward. She was wonderful to talk to, always offering genuine insight without being pushy. She was too kind a person to ever run somebody down critically." Former U-M theater development director Linda Bennett stated that her devotion to her students was legendary: "She was a wonderful actress and a wonderful teacher. She influenced generations of students, because she connected to people of all ages. She was very proper yet very, very liberal, very willing to entertain new ideas." Indeed, she attended the DepartmentÕs innovative production of "After a Fashion" in the Trueblood Theatre only two weeks before her death.
A memorial service in remembrance of Claribel Baird Halstead was held on Sunday, April 27 at the Michigan League attended by a multitude of friends, former students, and family. This production of "The Nutcracker" is given in her memory on the eve of what would have been her 100th birthday. Happy Birthday Claribel, your presence in our theatres as teacher, friend, audience member, and artist will long be felt and remembered.
Download the Claribel tribute as a PDF file
Click here to view The Nutcracker program as a PDF file