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A modern twist on ‘The Nutcracker’ takes stage in Indianapolis

A modern twist on ‘The Nutcracker’ takes stage in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis performing arts program is gearing up to perform a modern interpretation of a traditional Christmas production.

Normally, “The Nutcracker” is a classic ballet, performed in two acts to the score written by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

This holiday season, The Performing Arts Conservatory is adding jazz to the mix and telling the story through the perspective of teenagers, dubbed, “The Nutcracker Suite.”

The conservatory is a nonprofit group in Castleton, focused on teaching middle and high school students dance, music, and drama.

Executive Director Bridget Townsend says they work with students from all parts of town, with a variety of different interests.

“Some kids really love what they do, but some of these kids, they’re not sure, and then they get a bug after they start working with it,” Townsend said. “We’re finding that many of the kids that we’ve been working with over the years, they’ve now started to go into their school systems and they’re becoming a part of their school’s performing arts program.”

The group of students working on the production teamed up with local award-winning screenwriter and author Tiffany Wolfork, who took their ideas and helped them create the script.

Townsend said, “In the ballet, we know what happens. There’s a mouse, there’s a queen, there’s a nutcracker. People know these characters. Our kids add a modern twist to who the nutcracker in the story is all about. Wolfork put their words into a script. You’ll see some nuances of Indianapolis, all in the script. They even added a little bit of what they’re hearing and seeing on the news.”

“The Nutcracker Suite” also gives a breath of fresh air to Tchaikovsky’s work by incorporating Jazz music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Townsend says it ultimately goes back to what the conservatory was founded on: By exposing children to different parts of American culture, they might not have learned about elsewhere.

She said, “We want to be able to infuse a knowledge of the African American culture. We want to give these kids this variation of what happens within that culture. Duke Ellington, come on now. He did it very, very well. This is a Duke Ellington classic.”

The show opens at 1 p.m. Saturday at Castleton United Methodist Church. On Sunday, it takes the stage at Witherspoon Presbyterian Church at 4 p.m.

Tickets are $15 on presale or $20 at the door. Tickets can be purchased here.