David Threefoot (yes, the father of former Soloist Lucas Threefoot), has been sharing the OBT stage for some time, most memorably in the role of Grandpa in George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”. Here, he tells us what it’s like to perform with Oregon Ballet Theatre, and how he got his start playing the jolly gentleman.
So…I’ve been growing this mustache for a year in anticipation of my role in the Nutcracker. Each year I like to grow a slightly different combination of mustache and beard. Hopefully my mustache will be long enough soon, and I can find the right wax to give it an impressive stage presence.
This will be my tenth year helping out as a supernumerary with Oregon Ballet Theatre. My favorite role is that of Grandpa in the Nutcracker. It is a chance to really enjoy the holiday season, spend time surrounded by lots of youthful energy, and provide a thrill for those who come to watch the performance. Although my part is light duty compared to that of the dancers, it is important also, and I take it seriously.
There are lots of young performers involved in the production, and I get the feeling that they look up to me as Grandpa during the weeks of rehearsal and performance. Since I don’t have my own grandchild near, it fills a void for me as well.
When OBT started doing the Balanchine “Nutcracker”, Christopher Stowell asked for adult volunteers to audition. I had no intentions of doing so, but my wife said I’d be good for the role. After thinking about it, I decided to give it a try. Lucas, our son, had started performing with the Nutcracker in the pre-Balanchine version, at the age of seven. As many parents of OBT students know, this meant that he was gone from home for much of the holiday season for rehearsals. Getting involved myself would give me an opportunity to spend more time with him. Prior to this point, my wife and I had worked as chaperones, but being in the same space would be even more rewarding. As it turned out, since I had done some folk dancing as a younger man, I could do the relatively simple dance steps in the audition. Consequently, I and one other fellow – in his thirties, and a more experienced dancer – were chosen to do Grandpa that first year. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), he never came back. I went on stage for every performance that year, and had a ball. I was hooked.
Over the years, some interesting fun has taken place on stage. One year Kate Kearney, Lucas’s girlfriend at the time, was Grandma. Lucas played Dr. Stahlbaum, the host of the grand party in Act I. So Lucas was my son on stage, but I was married to his girlfriend! We all had a good laugh at that arrangement.
Although OBT hasn’t used many ‘supers’ in Nutcracker the last few years, I’ve had the joy of meeting several, and developing friendships with them. For years, I encouraged Linda Besant to do the role of Grandma. She was curious, but resisted – until one year she decided to give it a whirl, literally, and we’ve been a couple on stage ever since. Generally she and I make up little stories while we’re on stage, talking about our stage family, for example, and how handsome or beautiful they are. Linda tells me how brave I was in the wars; I keep her from catching forty winks, or tell her jokes. It is a lot of fun being there, and living the grand fantasy each performance.
What’s not to like about my gig? I get to participate in a great production, with wonderful staff and artists, during the season that brings joy to so many children and their families. The Nutcracker has become a favorite holiday pastime for many in the Portland Metro area. I am honored to help in my role as Grandpa, bringing the magic of dance and theater to all who attend.
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Such a wonderful story. I can relate as I danced the party scene for 4 years while my daughter worked her way up to Clara and beyond. My memories of this time fill me with the joy you speak of.
That’s so nice to hear, Cynthia! Thanks for sharing.