In response to new state restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, Vashon Center for the Arts has once again pivoted, dialing back some in-person programs while at the same time, planning other celebrations including a heartwarming virtual twist on its annual production of “The Nutcracker.”
For safety reasons, the arts center has postponed more than a dozen video recording activities to be live-streamed from its Kay White Hall. These shows were planned to coincide with the holiday season, said Allison Halstead Reid, the executive director of VCA, but no longer seemed safe to produce, given the increase in infections locally, in the state and nationwide.
“The risk to performance artists, speakers, our production staff, and the difficulties in quarantining out-of-state talent is too great,” she said.
But still, even in the quiet of the pandemic, staff members of the arts center have stayed busy, fine-tuning VCA’s virtual “Nutcracker,” mounting holiday exhibits and displays and even taking care of the unfinished business of having a generator installed at the facility.
In a letter sent in mid-November, Halstead Reid thanked VCA community members for support throughout the difficult year, and expressed hope that 2021 would bring “positive change and healing to restore us all.”
But in the meantime, the show must go on. Here’s what happening at VCA in December.
Grab a handkerchief for ‘Nutcracker Pastiche’
Vashon Center for Dance’s “Nutcracker” ballet, as performed by students of Vashon Center for Dance, has been a holiday tradition on Vashon for decades.
And now, with the arts center’s stage still shuttered, the staff at VCA have been hard at work to bring the ballet to life and sprinkle a little holiday cheer to dancers and families in the only way possible: by creating a virtual “Nutcracker” medley and streaming it online at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at vashoncenterforthearts.org.
Viewers should have tissues or a handkerchief close at hand, said Halstead Reid, who said she’d seen her staffers “turning to much and crying their eyes out” as they previewed the video.
As edited by VCA intern Emalia Hinden, the video melds more than 20 years of VCA’s “Nutcracker” production videos into a scene-by-scene pastiche of the entire ballet, featuring hundreds of young islanders who have performed the show over the years.
“It’s really extraordinary to see little Madeline Morser as a dancer and now she’s one of our online dance instructors,” said Halstead Reid. “Since we can’t do ‘The Nutcracker’ this year, we feel it’s the next best thing – plus we want folks to remember the wonderful tradition this brings to our island.”
There is a $10 suggested donation for the screening.
Miniature works and menorahs on view
VCA opens its 14th annual Miniatures Show on Friday, Dec. 4, from 12 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. — filling its gallery and atrium with small, gift-sized works by more than 90 local artists.
In keeping with efforts not to hold events, the show will not have an opening reception, and for those who want to skip a gallery visit altogether, works can also be seen and purchased online, at vashoncenterforthearts.org. All art is available to take home upon purchase.
Gallery hours for December are 12 to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and by appointment only on Thursdays. On Dec. 23 and 24, the gallery will be open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The gallery and lobby area of VCA now have a strict maximum of 25 people at one time, with stanchions installed for entrances and exiting flow. Visitors must not linger in the gallery for more than 30 minutes. Masking and social distancing are, of course, still mandatory.
Also, until Dec. 9, an installation of menorahs, owned by islanders, are on display in the tall windows of the arts center. It’s the second year in a row that VCA has created a display of these ritual items, owned by islanders.
Gingerbread houses on display
Thriftway and VCA have teamed up to display entries to a gingerbread house contest, which will be on display in VCA’s lobby in December. The houses will also be visible from outdoors if patrons look through the building’s corner courtyard windows.
The drop-off time and dates for gingerbread houses (which should sit on a cardboard base and be completely edible, with no plastic components) are 12 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, or Friday, Dec. 4.
Three $100 gift-card prizes will be awarded in the categories of “Most Creative Use of Gumdrops,” “Best Vashon Landmark,” and “Most Traditional Gingerbread House.
Songs of the season will be reprised
VCA will re-broadcast a special holiday show, “Broadway Nation Live presents The Story Behind White Christmas,” at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, at vashoncenterforthearts.org.
David Armstrong, the artistic director emeritus of The 5th Avenue Theatre, will take audiences inside the creation of the bestselling and most recorded song of all time as he tells the story of how a destitute, illiterate, Russian-Jewish immigrant named Irving Berlin became America’s Composer Laureate and invented an entirely new category of song.
Originally recorded on December 6, 2019, at the Kay White Hall, this performance features special guest Albert Evans. There are also musical performances by 5th Avenue Theatre stars, Cayman Ilika and Eric Ankrim, singing holiday hits including “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”, “White Christmas” and many more.
There is a $10 suggested donation for the show.
VCA gets its generator, at last
Last month, VCA also installed a generator at its facility, fulfilling a goal in place since the time the new arts center was built and a broader community purpose for its building mentioned during the fundraising campaign for the building.
In 2018, VCA was awarded $50,000 from the PSE Foundation to install a generator so the facility could serve as a backup community shelter in the event of an island-wide emergency.
According to Halstead Reid, VCA’s building was built with large, seismically robust spaces specifically designed to make it a prime location for a back-up shelter or surge resource for first responders, in the case of an emergency.
The plan was for the generator to be installed in 2018. But the work was delayed when the price of the unit exceeded the funding resources, Halstead Reid said. Through the efforts of VCA board president John de Groen, an affordable generator and service contract were finally found in early 2020, and the Kohler 124kw diesel generator was finally installed by Modwire Electric last month.