Meet the students behind UNCSA's "Nutcracker" production

UNCSA’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” graces the Stevens Center stage this month, as the schools of Dance, Music and Design & Production deliver a memorable holiday experience to audiences over 10 performances. Meet some of the more than 200 students who are bringing “The Nutcracker” to life this year: 

Arianna Bohning

M.M. Collaborative Piano ’21 | Seward, Nebraska

Arianna BohningHow did you discover UNCSA?
My family had been vacationing to the beach in North Carolina since I was a child, and I have always been interested in coming back to N.C. for school. I focused my school search to North Carolina Schools, and UNCSA was a clear frontrunner in terms of its superior arts instruction. 

What is your role in “The Nutcracker” this year?
I will be playing the celesta! This means that I get to play the famous “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” solo.

Is there a mentor who has helped you during “The Nutcracker?”
Playing for “The Nutcracker” on the celesta has definitely been a tradition that is passed from one student to the next year after year, and I have been so lucky to connect with collaborative piano alumni that have played this part. They have been the greatest mentors to me, both in terms of going through difficult parts and offering fingering advice, to giving me tips on the overall performance.

Caleb Werkmeister

B.F.A. Lighting Technology ‘20 | Boulder, Colorado

Caleb WorkmeisterWhat is your role in “The Nutcracker” this year?
I am the production electrician. I take the lighting designer’s vision and plan out a way to hang and power all of the lighting fixtures in the show. I organize and manage a team of 11 electricians, spot light operators, board operators and electrics run crew. I also communicate between the lighting and other departments what our needs are and how to accommodate others’ needs. 

What is the most challenging part of working on “The Nutcracker?”
The load in time for getting all of the equipment into the theatre with power and control is very limited. Every part of the process needs to be planned out for my team to work efficiently, but also to communicate with the other departments abut where we will be working and when. There is very little room for error on a show this size at the speed it moves.

What is your favorite moment in the performance that the audience should anticipate?
As part of the lighting team, I would say the tree growing is the most awe-inspiring part of the show. However, my favorite moment to watch is the “Waltz of the Flowers.”

Evelyn Robinson

High School Classical Ballet ’20 | Tyler, Texas

Evelyn RobinsonWhat is your role in “The Nutcracker” this year?
I am Sugar Plum Fairy and Flowers this year, and I danced these roles during my sophomore year as well.

What is your routine during “The Nutcracker?” How do you prepare for each performance?
As an artist with nerves, I like to follow a pretty strict routine. After completing the typical routine of fueling with food, warmup and makeup, I like to get into the zone by listening to inspiring music—which ranges from “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokofiev to a song by Panic! At The Disco. Having a moment to step away from the exciting thoughts and tune into my emotions allows me to become the artist I am.

Is there a mentor who has helped you during “The Nutcracker?”
Mrs. Zerbe has been such a blessing to have as a mentor. Not only does she focus on our technique, but she also dives into our inner spirit, nourishing it and bringing it out in each of us. It’s no longer about “The Nutcracker” production, but also about art as a whole. 

Lelan Lewis

B.F.A. Classical Ballet ’20 | Chicago, Illinois

Lelan LewisHow did you discover UNCSA?
I competed in the Youth America Grand Prix in 2016. My ballet teacher, Mr. Tchoupakov, came to watch the master class for the competition. I introduced myself ot him and inquired about UNCSA’s ballet program.

What is your role in “The Nutcracker” this year?
I am dancing as the Cavalier in Grad pas and in the two Divertissements, Arabian and Spanish. In previous years, I have performed the roles of Russian, Party Father and Mouse.

What is your favorite moment in the performance that audiences should anticipate?
My favorite moment is the transition between Act I and Act II because it reveals the magical and fantastical elements of “The Nutcracker.” It’s really exciting, and I don’t want to give too much away—but wait until you see the tree change. It’s amazing! 

Victor Stahoviak

B.M. Double Bass ’20 | Durham, North Carolina

Victor StahoviakHow did you discover UNCSA?
I learned about the school when my high school orchestra teacher was screaming with excitement because one of our cellists had just been accepted to UNCSA. It was my first time hearing about the school, so my teacher told me I should apply, too. 

What is your role in “The Nutcracker” this year?
This is my third year as principal double bassist.

What is the most challenging part of working on “The Nutcracker?”
As a bassist, the most challenging part is moving my instrument around the orchestra pit. The ceiling is already just low enough that I have to be careful I don’t bump my head on it, and then I carry an instrument that is both taller and wider than myself up the stairs to the front and back down every night.

What is your favorite memory from working on the production?
I love the looks of curiosity from children who come down to look into the orchestra pit, as if we’re a menagerie for musicians or a zoo. But I remember one girl in particular. Once everybody in the orchestra was in their seats and warming up before the show, a frustrated young girl waved to me and said, “The conductor needs to get his butt out here and save us because the orchestra sounds like rackets!” She was right, to be frank, since we both had to shout to understand each other. So we shouted back and forth over how badly we wanted the show to start until the conductor got his butt out there.

Katie Lovejoy

B.F.A. Classical Ballet ’20 | Greensboro, North Carolina

Katie LovejoyWhat is your role in “The Nutcracker” this year?
I am performing the role of the Sugar Plum fairy, as well as a role as part of the Flowers. 

What roles have you performed in previous years?
My first UNCSA “Nutcracker” performance was while I was a Preparatory Dance student, and I performed as a Soldier and Ginger. In high school, I performed as Solder, Ginger, Grandmother, Snow Corp, Flowers and Snow Queen. In college so far, I’ve performed the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, Flowers and Spanish.

Why is this a special performance?
This year’s “Nutcracker” will be my last as a student. It signifies the end of my journey, where I have had many different instructors, performed many different roles and been shaped as a dancer. The diversity of my “Nutcracker” experience has created lasting memories and friendships with other students. The excitement level from the audience is the ultimate instant gratification of a job well done. There is also a sense of “The Nutcracker” being a family tradition for many attendees, and amongst the cast and mentors. 

by Izzie Keim and Hannah Callaway

December 12, 2019