Nutcracker scenery gets fresh look, strong UWGB commitment

Sugar Plum Fairy in Land of Sweets

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Professor of Theatre and Dance Jeff Entwistle, and a core of seven students, spent more than 60 hours working load-in and rehearsals recently for five performances of the Green Bay Nutcracker Ballet, presented by the Northeastern Wisconsin Dance Organization (NEWDO).

Portrait of Jeff Entwistle

Jeff Entwistle

These high impact learning experiences are ideal for UWGB students beyond the extensive production work that takes place on campus, says Entwistle. The Nutcracker crew began work, full steam ahead, on this expansive community project only one day after striking the major production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” from the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.

UW-Green Bay faculty, students and alumni have proudly played a large part in this wonderful holiday production of the Nutcracker Ballet through the years. UWGB ballet instructor and alumnus, Tim Josephs, serves as artistic director and choreographer for NEWDO. In addition, theatre alumni, Wendy Huber (stage-manager) and Emily Terrell Paulsen (costume coordinator) have given their time and expertise to this production for many years. Entwistle and Josephs began working together on public performances some 30 years ago and hope for many future collaborations.

In this its 10th Anniversary year, the community production of the Green Bay Nutcracker Ballet was seen by more than 2,500 patrons. An additional cadre of UWGB theatre students assisted with load in, light hang, and strike, while others worked as “special dance wranglers.”

“It is such a positive experience for all our students involved with this production as they learn the value and importance of sharing one’s expertise with positive community arts organizations like the Green Bay School of Dance and NEWDO,” Entwistle says. “In turn they are treated like professionals while still in school thanks to the leadership of the NEWDO organization.”

Entwistle has been helping students with these rich and high impact learning opportunities since he started his career 31 years ago when offered a chance to design and build the very first set for the brand new regional Pamiro Opera Company.

“I had the opportunity to hire a crew of my students who would get paid a decent hourly rate and they could work with me so they would still be learning but they would also be paid for their services and gain an incredible experience,” Entwistle says. “We were not referring to these as high impact learning experiences back then, but we were thinking about them in precisely that way.” It was a model for Entwistle, his students and UWGB alumni for years to come.

Title Drop and Title Curtain ArchThe 10-year-old old scenery received a fresh look this year as many drops and large scenic props returned to its creation point — the UWGB Scene Shop — in summer for repainting and refreshing after being damaged in storage when water pipes burst last winter. The scenery is all back in storage once again awaiting next year’s 11th annual production year and offering even more high impact learning experiences for our UWGB Theatre and Dance students.

As for Entwistle, now embarking on his 32nd year, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“To this day some 12 years since the end of the Pamiro Opera Company, I still have alumni talk about those shows/operas as some of the most significant experiences they had while in college. I also got to stay with my family in Green Bay and I ended up getting paid even better than I would have at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago (a job offer he turned down to stay in Green Bay). It was two years after the last Pamiro Opera production that Tim (Josephs) and I struck up the idea to design and develop a production of Nutcracker that would hopefully (and eventually, has) become an annual event in Green Bay.”