Professor’s ‘Nutcracker’ focuses more on characters

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LEWISTON — The Robinson Players, a student-run theater group at Bates College, will present staged readings of a Bates professor’s adaptation of the “Nutcracker” story on Saturday and Sunday, May 15-16.

The readings are open to the public at no cost.

Martin Andrucki, Dana Professor of Theater at Bates, adapted his play “Marie and the Nutcracker” from “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the short novel by 19th-century author E.T.A. Hoffmann. Michelle Schloss, a Bates sophomore from Farmington, Conn., directs the production.

The basis for the popular ballet “The Nutcracker,” Hoffmann’s story follows the young girl Marie and her Christmas adventures when her favorite toy nutcracker comes to life. “My adaptation moves away from the emphasis on dream and spectacle in the story and, especially, in the ballet and it clarifies Marie’s intentions,” said Andrucki.

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“There’s still a lot of playful fantasy, but I’m focused on characterization and dramatic development. It’s a play about a young girl moving toward maturity through what she sees as a family crisis — the marriage of her older sister,” he explained. “She wants to prevent this and, with the reluctant help of her little brother, cooks up a scheme to sabotage the wedding. Her encounter with Nutcracker and the Mouse King helps her to realize the shabbiness of her plot, and points her in a new direction.”

Andrucki describes the original Hoffman text as “a wonderful piece of writing, with vivid characters, very weird psychological twists and turns, and a great sense of the power of the imagination.”

“The challenge in directing the staged reading has been stripping down the production,” Schloss said. “In a text where characters can morph from toys to human-size heroes, enter the stage through a magical clock and play the parts of both humans and royal mice, it’s difficult to picture staging the story with just stools and music stands on a bare stage.”

With none of the technical demands of a full-scale production to deal with, the staged-reading format gives her the opportunity to focus on the characters and relationships behind the spectacle, Schloss said.

The staged reading will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 16, in the Black Box Theater, Pettigrew Hall, 305 College St. For more information, call 786-8294.

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