Illinois Wesleyan professor hits the stage in The Nutcracker

Sophia Heilman

Above are the two young women who play Clara, Kelsey Drew (left) and Payton Conrad (right). Photo credit: Twin Cities Ballet

The Twin Cities Ballet will perform The Nutcracker on December 7th and 8th, one of Bloomington-Normal’s longest traditions, having lasted for 38 years. 

Eka Bezirgani, the artistic director for The Nutcracker, credits “the teamwork of everyone involved in the Nutcracker production” as the reason they’ve been able to continue this production for so long. 

The Nutcracker takes place on Christmas Eve, when the main character, Clara, falls asleep with her broken nutcracker in her grasp. 

The nutcracker was made for her by her godfather, Drosselmeyer, but a boy named Fritz breaks it. 

Clara dreams of battles between the Rat King and the Nutcracker, colorful lands, exotic peoples and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The Nutcracker features music by written by Peter Tchaikovsky, and at Braden there are a variety of performers, “professional dancers, company girls training to become professionals, adult actors, and talented amateurs who made it through auditions,” said Julie Weidmann, the president of the dance school. 

One of these performers is English Professor Michael Theune here at Illinois Wesleyan. 

Professor Theune will be playing the role of Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker. 

Mother Ginger is an incredible role to play, “you get to perform in a ballet without being a dancer, and the little dancers all idolize your character. It is the perfect role for anyone who wants to be a ham without the effort of artistry.” said former IWU provost, Johnathan Green.

Theune said “I’m super excited! I love humor and comedy–even teach a few courses on the topics! I adore silliness– So how could I pass up the chance to be funny and silly in front of a real crowd?” 

“Traditionally the role is played by a man, and if that man has facial hair it’s all the more fun,” said Jeannie Phillips, vice president of the dance school. 

Professor Theune will be showing off his big, beautiful beard that is perfect for the role. 

But the only thing to compete with Professor Theune’s beard will be the dress he’ll be wearing.

Professor Theune looks forward to stepping into the gown, or more specifically when he lifts his skirts on stage to release the dancers underneath, “I love that this performance will kind of force me to take time to just. Have. FUN! It’s gonna be a blast” said Theune.

Theune has been on stage before, playing Tommy Djilas in his middle school production of The Music Man.

But Professor Theune’s most notable performances are those he takes place in every day, standing in front of his class, putting on an educational and entertaining show for his students. 

Seeing a Titan on stage, especially one such as Professor Theune is a treat, but seeing him perform in a Christmas classic is the perfect thing to enter the holiday season with.

The Nutcracker will be performing on December 7th and 8th at 2 P.M., tickets cost $22.50 for individuals or $20.50 for a group of 10 or more. 

College students can get half-price tickets with a college ID or attend the private performance on December 6th, for five dollars.