The Transylvania Times -

'The Nutcracker' Set In 1920s At Silvermont - Brevard, NC


November 6, 2017

Courtesy Photo

Thomas Shoemaker and Tara Rybka dance the roles of Joseph and Elizabeth Silversteen in Brevard Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker," which Shoemaker choreographed. (Photo courtesy of Kaelee Denise Photography)

When Brevard Ballet Director Angie Wells was looking for a way to make her dancers' production of "The Nutcracker" stand out, she took one look at Silvermont mansion and everything fell into place.

With two traditional versions of "The Nutcracker" under her belt, Wells began collaborating with Thomas Shoemaker of the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities on a more localized version of the Christmas classic.

"We drove around Brevard talking about ideas, and when we saw Silvermont, we knew we had a setting," Wells said.

The Nov. 19 performance of "Nutcracker" will be set during the 1920s at the historic house on East Main Street, the home of the Silversteen family. The production will be held in Jones Auditorium of Brevard High School at 5 p.m.

Wells started her research on the ballet's new setting with Lee Stewart, who had engaged the Brevard Ballet to perform in the mansion during past Twilight Tours. Stewart, who passed away in 2015, worked tirelessly with Jan Osborne on the creation of Silvermont's second floor museum, spearheading renovations of the house and organizing artifacts used in interpretive displays that reflect the life and times of the Silversteen family.

The Silvermont mansion, a 33-room house on the National Register of Historic Places, makes a grand setting for "The Nutcracker." The Silversteen family, headed by Joseph, founder of the first tannery in the Transylvania County, provides the cast of characters for the production.

"The Silversteen's is a really interesting story. Joseph, a Russian Jew and local industrialist, and Elizabeth, his Christian wife, enjoyed celebrating Christmas in their grand home. The fact that they had three daughters – Miriam, Dorothy and Adelaide made the party scene in Nutcracker with all the children so natural," Wells said.

The Silversteens were known for the community tree celebration they hosted on their 8-acre property.

Traditionally the "Clara" character in "Nutcracker" is played by the host family's daughter. In the Brevard Ballet version, Clara is the daughter of a World War I widow who lives up the mountain from Silvermont. The widow is employed by the Silversteens to bake cakes and sweets for their parties.

Clara is befriended by Adelaide "Babe" Silversteen when Clara and her mother are making their delivery and invited into the party. All class distinctions are lost as the two new friends begin to play. Babe shares her Uncle Drosselmeyer's gift of a nutcracker doll with Clara, which sets the story in motion.

Wells and Shoemaker see the ballet choreography continuing to evolve over the next few years to include other elements of the Silversteen family, including Elizabeth's involvement in the Daughter's of the American Revolution, of which she served as the State Regent.

Wells' collaboration with Shoemaker is something of a reunion for the two. They knew each other through their involvement in the professional dance world. Shoemaker, who has been a principal dancer with the Atlanta Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Augusta Ballet and Charleston Ballet Theatre, is married to a former dancer and roommate of Wells.

"Tom is very musical and his talent is not just in creating dance steps, but in helping dancers interact with the set and props. His use of costumes, props, lights and sound, make a fuller, more generous production," Wells said.

Local dancers cast in key roles in the ballet include Evelyn Rybka as Clara, Tara Rybka as Elizabeth Silversteen, Josh Rood as Drosselmeyer, Gwyn Jennings as Miriam, August Barham as Dorothy, Ada Weaver as Babe and Diane Williams as the Widow. Shoemaker will dance the role of Joseph Silversteen.

Students from the S.C. Governor's School who are studying to become professional dancers will dance the parts of the Nutcracker Prince and Sugar Plum Fairy.

Tickets are available at DD Bullwinkel's Outdoors, Rocky's, and at Admission is $11 for students and $22 for adults.

The Brevard Ballet is grateful to its program sponsors, the CAN'd AID Foundation, the Audrey Love Charitable Founda-tion, the Hampton Inn and The Sock Basket of Asheville.


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