Urbana’s Gloria Theatre to premier local ‘Nutcracker’ film

The 31st performance of The Ohio Performing Arts Institute’s production of “The Nutcracker” will move from the big stage to the silver screen this weekend.

After the live production at the Clark State Performing Arts Center was canceled due to COVID-19 safety precautions, OPAI artistic director D. Scot Davidge pressed on with a filmed version of the classic in November. It will be shown at Urbana’s Gloria Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18 and Saturday, Dec. 19 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20.

Friday’s performance will be considered a premiere. The live performances would have been this weekend, so this is a welcome alternative according to Davidge.

“We’re stoked. It’s been such a long project, but it’s perfect,” said Davidge.

The association between OPAI and the Gloria occurred when an OPAI board member mentioned the circumstances and Gloria leadership jumped to collaborate.

“It was an ideal opportunity and creative way to deliver this performance,” said Staci Weller, CEO of the GrandWorks Foundation that operates the Gloria.

The Gloria is set up to conform to safety precautions with every other row open, limited auditorium doors open, enclosed ticket booth, plastic partitions at the concession stand among them. Attendees are required to wear masks.

The “Nutcracker” showings will be fundraisers with proceeds being split evenly between OPAI and GrandWorks. The theater will decorate with Nutcrackers and other festive touches. Davidge and Weller are hoping to do future collaborations.

“The intent of the Gloria is we’re not just a cinema, but a cultural and performing arts center. We can do all kinds of live events and there are very few old historic theaters to do that in,” Weller said.

While there won’t be the rush of being on the stage, many of the cast members will have a different thrill attending the premiere. Davidge said many of the female cast members are buying new dresses for the occasion.

For OPAI “Nutcracker” veteran performers such as Tessa Jenkins, filming presented a new challenge.

“It doesn’t feel completely different, but it hit me during filming,” she said. “I’m excited to see it. I’ve never done a film and it’s a new way to learn.”

Jenkins returns as the Sugar Plum Fairy, a role she played two years ago after being the Snow Queen in 2019. She is a student at Clark State and teaches at OPAI.

Some dancers have been performed in “The Nutcracker” since their preschool days, including Sophia Fissel, whose future goals include succeeding Jenkins as Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen.

“I wish we were on the stage, but we’re blessed this way,” Fissel said. “The community just loves seeing what we present.”

For Urbana High senior Kaylan Mann, seven years of patience in smaller parts has parlayed into the role of Clara, made more memorable for this being her final “Nutcracker” show. She gets the added pleasure of the film being in her hometown.

It’s all new for Nathaniel Tackett, taking on the Prince role. He began taking ballet to help with his martial arts skills. He’s a second-degree black belt in taekwondo.

Davidge discovered Tackett as the Prince needs strength for the lifts and he’s proved an ideal choice.

Admission to the Gloria showings is $10.

Those who can’t make the Gloria showings can still watch “The Nutcracker.” OPAI has DVDs for sale or it can be streamed starting this weekend with links on its website or Facebook page.

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