Wednesday, January 26, 2022

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‘North Haven Nutcracker’ Brings Artistic Opportunities and Community Connections on Dec. 18

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The cast of North Haven Nutcracker is eager to perform on Saturday, Dec. 18. Photo courtesy of Shannon Cushing

The cast of North Haven Nutcracker is eager to perform on Saturday, Dec. 18. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Cushing)

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In North Haven Nutcracker, Clara is played by North Haven middle schooler Taylor Ruggeiro. Photo courtesy of Shannon Cushing

In North Haven Nutcracker, Clara is played by North Haven middle schooler Taylor Ruggeiro. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Cushing)

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Photo courtesy of Shannon Cushing

(Photo courtesy of Shannon Cushing)

For the third season, Tyler DuBoys and Shannon Cushing will be bringing the Nutcracker to the Town of North Haven and theater opportunities to their community. Each year’s production has taken on a new theme with the first year being New Year Nutcracker because it premiered in January and last year’s (which ended up being held in March at the High Lane Club) was Nutcracker…on the Green.

“This time around, it is North Haven Nutcracker because the vision remains the same: more arts for North Haven,” said Cushing. “We truly envision making this town a hub for artists and with the support of [Superintendent of Schools] Patrick Stirk, [Board of Education Chair] Anita Anderson, and First Selectman Michael Freda, we know we are on the right track.”

While DuBoys and Cushing are the artistic directors, the performance is made possible under the umbrella of Performing Arts Studio BE and its owner and executive director Michelle Bonavena, along with a host of volunteers.

“It takes a village, it truly does,” said Cushing. “With the blessing, assistance, and the tour de force that is Michelle Bonavena, North Haven has itself its first full-length holiday ballet. We cannot wait to continue to grow this program and work with as many aspiring dancers and performers as possible. Ballet is for everyone and an artistic education develops creativity, critical thinking skills, and fosters a sense of freedom not found in a textbook.”

Cushing and DuBoys came up with the idea of bringing a community performance of The Nutcracker to North Haven after performing together professionally in a shoreline holiday show. After forming a bond while performing, the pair realized they had common artistic goals.

“We knew we wanted to inspire the next generation of artists by providing more artistic opportunities in North Haven,” says Cushing. “Today that vision has become a reality in the form of North Haven Nutcracker.”

This is now the third season of seeing their vision come to fruition. The first production was held at the High Lane Club in January 2020 and after its success, they immediately began planning for a December 2020 production. Due to the complications of COVID, the performance and the venue had to be adjusted as the artistic directors found creative ways to hold rehearsals. They looked into hosting the production on the North Haven Town Green, but found there were “too many complications.” They eventually decided to hold a limited seating, live-streamed performance out of the High Lane Club.

“Luckily, the dancers did eventually get to showcase their hard work, as we were able to perform the same show to a limited seating, live streaming version of the show in March,” said Cushing.

With restrictions having eased, both Cushing and DuBoys are looking forward to a return to a more traditional format with this year’s production scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 18 with performances at 2 and 6 p.m. In addition, the production will be held at North Haven Middle School.

“We’re so excited to see what new energy and life we can get from moving to the North Haven Middle School stage,” said Cushing.

Cushing noted that the cast is made up predominantly of students from North Haven Public Schools with numbers growing by 50 percent from last year’s cast. Knowing they would need more space to accommodate the large cast, they approached the superintendent and the Board of Education.

“This show would not be possible” without the help of Stirk and Anderson, Cushing said. “When we proposed the idea of creating more artistic opportunities for the students in town, both Patrick and Anita jumped on board to support and assist us in getting the show on the road.”

The partnerships within the community extend beyond Studio BE and the school. Prior to COVID, Cushing and DuBoys were in the process of developing an Arts Outreach Program with Carlos Callazo from the North Haven Boys and Girls Club. Once it was determined it was possible to hold a production this year, the opportunities was offered to members of the Boys and Girls Club resulting in “a great turnout and lots of interest and we are so excited to welcome new faces to our group,” according to Cushing.

Tickets are reserved seating and must be purchased online through TutuTix at buy.tututix.com/nutcrackerstudiobe. For information, email NutcrackerStudioBE@gmail.com.

“Not only is it a lovely local rendition of the holiday classic, but after a global pandemic, both dancers and audience members alike are desperate for the curtain to open on live theatre once again,” said Cushing. “After being deprived of live performances for so long, it’s going to be such a relief to hear the roar of the crowd once more. Experiencing the show live is a great way to kick off the holiday season and makes for a wonderful family tradition as we plan to bring this show to town every year.”



Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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