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Graphic Design Brings The Nutcracker History to Life

November 20, 2013 —

Graphic Design program director Jody Graff and five of her students designed the a new exhibition that takes visitors behind the curtain of one of Philadelphia’s most beloved holiday traditions – the Pennsylvania Ballet’s annual presentation of The Nutcracker. The “Behind the Scenes of The Nutcracker” exhibit tells the story of the ballet’s 45-year history in Philadelphia and will be on display at the Philadelphia History Museum’s Community History Gallery until Jan. 31. For inspiration, the students focused on the fantasy, wonder and magical quality of The Nutcracker, to create a sense of wonder and excitement. The exhibition allows visitors to see how stage magic is created through learning about the hundreds of people and months of preparation involved in bringing The Nutcracker to life each season.

“Behind the Scenes of The Nutcracker” began as an independent study during the winter term in early 2013. The exhibit was designed for the Pennsylvania Ballet by five Graphic Design students under the direction of Graff, including Kristen Beck ‘13, Niki Benedetto ‘14, Tawona Chimimba ‘14, Soha Qadir ‘14 and Avery Sohn ‘14. The students came up with three conceptual designs, which were then presented to the Ballet and Museum. The design that was chosen was then refined and evolved into the current installation. 

For inspiration, the students focused on the fantasy, wonder and magical quality of The Nutcracker, to create a sense of wonder and excitement. The exhibition allows visitors to see how stage magic is created through learning about the hundreds of people and months of preparation involved in bringing The Nutcracker to life each season. Included in the exhibition are artifacts from past Pennsylvania Ballet performances, including a tiara worn by the Sugarplum Fairy, a toy soldier’s hat, a mouse head, a Dewdrop costume and an archival program.

At the entrance of the gallery is a 10-foot Christmas tree decorated with pointe shoes. A video, created especially for the exhibition, will feature past performances, as well as interviews with those involved in the creation of the production. Included in the exhibition are artifacts from past Pennsylvania Ballet performances, including a tiara worn by the Sugarplum Fairy, a toy soldier’s hat, a mouse head, a Dewdrop costume and an archival program.

Visitors can also learn the five classical ballet positions by practicing their moves in front of a mirror installed in the gallery. Graff will continue to work with the Ballet, collaborating with other Drexel students and instructors to create an on-site case exhibition at the Free Library Main Branch to be featured for the month of March 2014.

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