Standing between 'Nutcracker' and chaos at Pacific Northwest Ballet
Doug Fullington, education programs manager at Pacific Northwest Ballet, keeps the ranks of toy soldiers, swirls of snowflakes and hordes of mice properly scheduled for the company's annual production of "Nutcracker."
Seattle Times staff reporter
'Nutcracker' by the numbers
Performances this year: 36 for the public plus two for schools
Number of roles: Nearly 190
Number of dancers: Nearly 300, with multiple casts dancing in rotation
Hours of rehearsal: 285
Number of costume pieces: 700
Number of pointe shoes worn out during a "Nutcracker" season: 500
Source: Pacific Northwest Ballet
'Nutcracker'Pacific Northwest Ballet, Friday through Dec. 27, Seattle Center's McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $26-$123 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).
A moment, please, for the casting-change guy at "Nutcracker."
When the curtains rise on Pacific Northwest Ballet's annual holiday confection, which starts Friday and runs through Dec. 27, the "oohs" and "aahs" will likely not go to Doug Fullington, casting schedule wrangler. They will go, rather, to the enormous Mouse King, the ballerinas twirling amid sparkling snowflakes, and the growing- before-our-eyes Christmas tree.
But really, the show would be chaos — chaos! — if not for Fullington.
He's the guy who makes sure, in a show with nearly 300 cast members rotating through 187 roles in 38 performances, that each time, someone arrives to play Princess Pirlipat, Male Mouse No. 4 and Flower No. 16.
He's the one who gets the call when, say, the dancer playing the peacock is injured, meaning the dancer playing the lead female Moor may have to substitute, meaning someone in the Moors corps has to play the lead Moor, meaning a dancer in the corps of flowers gets moved to the corps of Moors ... Ack! It's enough to give anyone a headache.
But not Fullington.
A calm, reserved 42-year-old, Fullington daily juggles incoming calls, texts and e-mails from dancers or student-dancers' parents; pores through schedules and spreadsheets to see who can play what roles at each performance; and then keeps all the departments — including wardrobe, production and marketing — abreast of the changes via e-mails and scribbled names on callboards.
Fullington is "the hub of the wheel" for "Nutcracker," says company manager Jennifer Steiner. Not that Fullington sees it that way.
He is self-effacing, repeatedly emphasizing that he is just one of many people who make the production work.
A music and dance historian with knowledge of classical ballet notation and a graduate degree in music history (not to mention a law degree he no longer uses), he's also founder and artistic director of the Tudor Choir, a professional a cappella ensemble.
"He's so smart. But he never throws that at you," Steiner said.
At Pacific Northwest Ballet, Fullington is, officially, the education programs manager and assistant to artistic director Peter Boal. He's served in that position for five years, and before, was assistant to former artistic directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell for four years.
In addition to research and educational work, he also coordinates the cast schedules for all of the ballet company's performances.
"Nutcracker," because of its large cast size, is the most complicated.
There was the snowstorm of 2008, when dancers were stranded or delayed, and Fullington and others had to try to figure out — sometimes up to a half-hour before the show — who was where, how soon they'd arrive, and who needed to be replaced.
Then there were the times flu viruses broke out, causing whole swaths of casting changes at once.
Through it all, Fullington is patient, talking parents through what is expected of their kids during "Nutcracker" performances (the cast includes more than 200 young ballet students), and soothing the nerves of last-minute substitutes.
"I don't know of a time when we haven't had a full cast on stage," he said.
Fullington watched — and loved — his first performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker" when he was a child, even before the current 27-year-old Maurice Sendak-Kent Stowell version was created.
He still loves watching the show, seeing the kids enjoy themselves on stage and the way the company dancers interact with the young students.
"I feel proud to be part of this," he said.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or email@example.com
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