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Behind the scenes with Mother Ginger

Mother Ginger on stage at NBT's Nutcracker with Little Children
Mother Ginger 2021-Photo Credits; Elizabeth Langfeld

Besides the Snow scene, I find nothing more magical than Mother Ginger. Seeing all the little Polichinelles running out from under Mother Ginger's skirts always amazes me.

The crowd is always delighted to clap and smile when Mother Ginger appears in Act II of The Nutcracker. However, getting Mother Ginger ready for the stage takes more people than Polichinelles under her voluminous skirt.

Long before opening night, the large aluminum stand, yards of skirting, and rigging are set up and checked for needed repairs. A group of local artists created NBT's Mother Ginger costume. It consists of a large aluminum hoop with welded bars to ensure that the frame holds a rounded shape. Foam and wire are attached to the top of the frame so that the bars do not show.

Photo Credits: Dale Spainhower

The entire structure is attached to a steel tower, in which our Mother Ginger stands.

In most productions, Mother Ginger is played by the older male members of the Company. However, at NBT, we draw from our local community. Gilbert Barrioz is in his second year performing the role of Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker. Although he is not a dancer, his love of ballet grew from watching his children perform.

There is only one rehearsal in the studio working with the costume before going into the theater. Typically the dancers who are new to the role are given a chance to first practice without the children. Next, the Polichinelleare are brought in and instructed how to move under the skirt. One critical note—don't get trampled.

Once in the theater, getting Mother Ginger ready backstage is a multi-person challenge. Mother Ginger will get his hair, and makeup applied during the Snow Scene at the end of Act I. The biggest challenge is getting the wig and bonnet atop the dancer's head.

Applying Makeup BackStage to Mother Ginger
Photo Credits:Lisa Gelinas

At the beginning of intermission, it's time for the dancer to start getting dressed. First, two people from the wardrobe assist with putting on the corset and pantaloons. They then help him get into the stand and arrange the skirt. After that is all about waiting in the wings backstage for the grand entrance.

According to Barrioz, it is worth seeing the people clap and cheer with Mother Ginger.

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