Molly Novack as Clara in Westside Ballet of Santa Monica’s 'The Nutcracker.' ( Photo by Todd Lechtick)

Molly Novack as Clara in Westside Ballet of Santa Monica’s ‘The Nutcracker.’ (Photo by Todd Lechtick)

‘Tis the season when holiday specials and entertainment traditions abound.

While tickets to their performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Broad Stage are sold out, Westside Ballet and the Santa Monica College Symphony are creating other opportunities for students to enjoy this classic holiday ballet.

More than $100,000 have been raised through a remarkable outpouring of government agencies and local business support to make performances of “The Nutcracker” accessible to Santa Monica’s youth and underserved community members.

Five hundred Santa Monica fifth graders will hear a narrated version of the Nutcracker story, based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” and see excerpts from the ballet on Wednesday.

On Friday, Nov. 29, the final dress rehearsal will be open to hundreds of community members from local nonprofits and community organizations including Westside Children’s Center, Neighborhood Youth Association, Kids In Sports, Everybody Dance, People Assisting the Homeless, Venice Family Clinic, Santa Monica Police Activities League, and Virginia Avenue Park.

Approximately 24 of Westside’s dancers are high school students concurrently enrolled in a special Santa Monica College dance course and will receive credit for the performances, as will more than a dozen symphony members who are SMC students. The credits are transferable to any of California’s public four-year colleges and universities.

Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, SMC’s associate director of public policy who was instrumental in creating the partnership, says the program will create a pathway to attract students into arts education careers.

“Young people think of dancing in a professional company or performing in an orchestra, but they don’t necessarily see the academic opportunities. We’re trying to capture their interest early,” explains Tahvildaran-Jesswein.

Executive Director Allegra Clegg, the daughter of Westside Ballet founder and legendary ballerina Yvonne Mounsey, says, “I am so grateful for the outpouring of community support surrounding ‘The Nutcracker.’ After founding Westside over 40 years ago, my mother worked tirelessly to develop dancers and nurture dance in the community, with affordable, accessible performances. I am proud to continue in her legacy.”

Find out more about the company online at www.westsideballet.com.

 

Sleep on it

 

“Sleeping with SMMoA” is a clever way to invite your support for Santa Monica Museum of Art while giving gifts to friends and loved ones — maybe even yourself.

GRACIE, the SMMoA gift shop, is expanding for the holidays with a specially curated selection of art and gift objects.

You’ll sleep pretty in a line of artist-designed nightwear by Joyce Pensato, Raymond Pettibon and Yutaka Sone with Benjamin Weissman, whose show, “What Every Snowflake Knows,” is currently on view, pairing artist and writer on their shared passion for skiing and snow.

The GRACIE Holiday Boutique opens on Saturday featuring a one-day-only trunk show by Dutch designer Annemieke Broenink, who presents her elegant rubber necklaces, a combination of art, craft and fashion made exclusively for SMMoA.

Members get a one-day-only 20 percent discount. For details visit www.smmoa.org/shop/gracie. The boutique is open through Dec. 21.

 

Holiday hilarity

 

MAKING FUNNY: Frank Caeti and Ron West in the 2012 production of The Second City’s ‘A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!’ by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort at the Center Theatre Group / Kirk Douglas Theatre. (Photo courtesy Craig Schwartz)

MAKING FUNNY: Frank Caeti and Ron West in the 2012 production of The Second City’s ‘A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!’ by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort at the Center Theatre Group / Kirk Douglas Theatre. (Photo courtesy Craig Schwartz)

For those whose tastes run to holiday debauchery, now returning for its 18th year is the raucous romp known as “Bob’s Holiday Office Party,” described by the LA Weekly as “a drunken alternative to Frank Capra’s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’”

As Midwestern small town insurance agent Bob contemplates whether to give up his dull life and become an inventor, he throws one last Christmas party, into which wander all of the tiny burg’s eccentric characters for a night of drinking and partying — and other activities. You can’t begin to imagine the chaos and the double-entendres, so don’t bother, just go see it.

“Bob’s Holiday Office Party” runs Dec. 4 through Dec. 22, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. Call (800) 838-3006 for tickets; at Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 90064.

The Actors’ Gang Theatre takes on holiday dysfunction with their annual “The Queen Family’s Very Special Holiday Special,” starting Dec. 6 at their Culver City venue.

The annual Queen Family Telethon is full of magic, musicians, juggling, clowning, aerialists, tap dancers and more. This year, the Queens have invited everyone from the atheists to the Amish to join in the holiday fun. Wear your ugliest holiday sweater and stay and enjoy the post-show activities following each performance.

“The Queen Family’s Very Special Holiday Special” runs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., Dec. 6 through Jan. 4. Bring a toy for Operation USA. Tickets online at www.TheActorsGang.com or call 310 838-4264.

Second City’s “A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens” returns to the Kirk Douglas Theatre, also in Culver City. Using the Dickens classic as its springboard, this partly scripted, mostly improvised show by Second City alums and former “Colbert Report” writers Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, guarantees a riotous night of wacky and politically incorrect humor.

Improvisation makes each show unique, and a different surprise guest star is featured at every performance, among them Casey Affleck, Diedrich Bader, Mindy Cohn, Jane Kaczmarek, Richard Karn, Keegan-Michael Key, Matthew Modine, Rhea Perlman, Paul Provenza, Yakov Smirnoff, Mindy Sterling and Fred Willard. Each guest star puts their own comic stamp on the production, and the audience never knows which guest star they will see.

Opening night is Dec. 12 and the production runs through Dec. 29th at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. www.centertheatregroup.org or (213) 628-2772.

 

Hanukkah mash-up

 

At The Skirball Cultural Center in the Sepulveda Pass, celebrate the once in a lifetime collision of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah at the annual Hanukkah Family Festival, this Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This confluence of holidays will not happen again for another 80,000 years!

There’ll be live performances, storytelling, Hanukkah-inspired crafts, treats, gallery viewings and more. Details at www.skirball.org.

This holiday season, museums all over Southern California are creating special programs and holiday activities for families, including special arts and crafts workshops, snow play for kids, sleepovers with marine life, and free admission at select institutions. For a complete listing of museums, visit www.SoCalMuseums.org.

 

Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.

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