A total of 26 students live in the building to take ballet classes and practice together. Everyone is required to wear a mask except for in a dorm room and during meal times.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Connecticut in the spring, local theaters and arts organizations have largely been shuttered. But creative ways to accommodate patrons — and create performances — have been born of necessity.

In Torrington, the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory found a way to continue a 40-year-old holiday tradition, the annual performance of The Nutcracker, with live-streamed and pre-recorded shows in the studio rather than before a live audience at the Warner Theater.

At the Ridgefield Theater Barn, a live performance of A Christmas Carol remained on the schedule this year thanks to the fact that the show requires only one actor — a lucky fluke born out of the theater’s decision to stage the show before the pandemic hit.

And if ballet and theater isn’t an option, there is always the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, where visitors can view the spectacular Christmas decorations as long as they reserve tickets in advance.

The Nutcracker, a 40-year-old holiday tradition of the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory, continued this year with live-streamed and pre-recorded shows. Above, students at the conservatory rehearse before the performance. Everyone wore masks throughout the rehearsal and the performance.
Dancers hold hands before they perform. “The stress level sometimes is so high for them because they want to dance so badly,” said Victoria Mazzarelli, artistic director. “Sometimes it’s hard especially in this time. This (Nutcracker performance) has given them a feeling of working towards something so good.”
Dancers warming up before the Nutcracker performance.
A dancer adjusts a friend’s hair before the Nutcracker live-streaming performance. Thirty-two dancers in the show were resident students. “Especially living in quarantine almost, they were like a family unit,” said Victoria Mazzarelli, artistic director.
Dancers warming up before the show. The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory switched from in-person classes to online in March. Since August, when students from across the country returned to live and practice together, friend and family visitations have been limited to prevent COVID-19 cases.
Dancers chat while waiting their turn to perform in front of the camera. Everyone entering the building has to have their temperature checked and wear a mask the entire time. Victoria Mazzarelli, artistic director, emphasized the importance of following the rules to prevent COVID-19 cases. “But I think it’s also important for the students to continue their education and to dance… They need to experience that just for their mental health too,” Mazzarelli said.
Male dancers practicing their turns before the Nutcracker performance.
Dancers rehearsing before the show.
Dancers walk up the stairs to perform the Nutcracker. Instead of having all 70 dancers on the stage at the same time, several groups waited on different floors and came up at their time to go on stage.
A dancer adjusts her mask while waiting for her turn to perform. About 70 students rotated to share the stage while minimizing social contact.
A dancer moves her mask so she can take a deep breath after a strenuous act.
Victoria Mazzarelli, artistic director, left front, and students waiting to enter the stage quietly cheer for the dancers while the show is being live-streamed. “There’s something when you’re performing in front of a live audience,” Mazzarelli said. “When you have the crowd present in the room with you in the auditorium, it just makes for something different… But I take this, whatever we can do works for me. I just feel like we’re taking the positive. Trying to make it the best that we can.”
Tim Melady, a principal ballet master at the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory, looks over the studio before the Nutcracker performance begins.
The Nutcracker performance was live streamed online and pre-recorded videos were available.
A total of 26 students live in the building to take ballet classes and practice together. Everyone is required to wear a mask except for in a dorm room and during meal times.
Students at the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory performed the Nutcracker in a studio this year. They normally hold the performance at the Warner Theatre before a live audience, but the pandemic prevented that this year.
Pamme Jones, executive director of the Ridgefield Theater, introduces A Christmas Carol on the last day of the performance. The theater was closed from March to Thanksgiving due to the pandemic, and let some staff go temporarily. The theater plans to close again until May, 2021. “We’re in it for the long haul,” Jones said. “We understand what it’s going to be. But it’s painful. It’s, it’s rough.”
Patrons wearing masks listen to the introduction to the show. “It makes me sad, because today’s the last show, and we won’t have a cast party, and we won’t have any of those normal experiences that you have,” said Pamme Jones, executive director at Ridgefield Theater Barn. “But that’s okay. Because even though audiences have been small some nights, it has been very healing for all of us to be doing it.”
A sign asking patrons to keep their masks on a table that’s just been disinfected. “We had some very full houses, we had some very small houses,” said Jones. “We just knew it was going to be like that. But we felt it was important to try to stay relevant.”
Patrick R. Spadaccino, who plays 25 characters and is the only actor appearing in the show, attaches a mic on his head by himself. Normally other staff help with the preparation, but Spadaccino does it alone this year to minimize social contact.
Scott R. Brill, director, center, and light and sound staff talk before the performance. In order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, the Ridgefield Theater Barn team has cut the number of staff needed to run the show to five people, including the actor.
Pamme Jones, executive director, wipes tables before the guests arrive for the last performance of A Christmas Carol. The intermission was removed and patrons weren’t allowed to have drinks or food in the theater.
Patrick R. Spadaccino has his temperature checked at the entrance of the Ridgefield Theater Barn.
Patrick R. Spadaccino walks around while practicing lines for A Christmas Carol at the Ridgefield Theater Barn. He has also performed virtually due to the pandemic. “It definitely takes a lot of adjustment because you’re not reacting to your fellow actors,” Spadaccino said. “You’re reacting to a little square of their face on the screen. And you can’t really look at them. You have to look at the camera, not them… It takes a lot more focus and concentration and imagination to do a successful virtual play, I think.”
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford is decorated for the holidays. The museum is open and operating on a reduced schedule.
Christmas music being performed live at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on Dec. 5. Visitors were asked to have their temperature checked at the entrance, to wear face masks and to walk in the direction of the arrows on the floor.
A visitor looks up at the art in the Morgan Memorial Building at the Wadsworth. Free admission is available through Jan. 31, 2021.
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art decorated for the holiday. Reserving tickets in advance at my.thewadsworth.org is required. Walk-in visitors may be accommodated depending on availability.

Yehyun joined CT Mirror in June 2020 as a photojournalist and a Report For America Corps Member. Her role at CT Mirror is to tell visual stories about the impact of public policy on individuals and communities in Connecticut. Prior to joining CT Mirror, Yehyun photographed community news in Victoria, Texas and was a photo and video intern at USA TODAY and at Acadia National Park in Maine. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Yehyun was born and raised in South Korea.

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