The final curtain

  • By Tara Kinsell December 5, 2012
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Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter
Elle Schadel, who will play the dancing snowflake fairy in Irene Jacobs’ third-grade classroom production of “The Nutcracker Suite,”practices her dance, while Brennan Matiyasac, who will play the role of the Nutcracker, watches. Order a Print
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Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter
This is just a portion of the 100-plus nutcrackers in Kevin Jacobs’ collection. He began receiving them as a toddler. Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – The final curtain will fall Dec. 14 on a theatrical production that started 15 years ago in Greene County and with it, a 39-year teaching career will be one step closer to ending.

Waynesburg Elementary teacher Irene Jacobs’ fascination with “The Nutcracker Suite” prompted her to begin staging the holiday favorite each year in her third-grade classroom. She incorporates the individual talents of her students as she fills each role.

“Many of the students are in dance, and they choreograph their own dances for it. I had a student a couple of years ago who was studying the trumpet, and he played it in the play,” Jacobs said.

A production backdrop, hand-painted and stitched together by Jacobs, had a dual function during the school year. In addition to serving as scenery, it serves as a cover for classroom materials during the PSSA testing, hiding prompts from the students.

With just two dress rehearsals Dec. 13, the whimsical version of the familiar classic will take its final shape.

“It will be the last Jacobs’ production of it,” she said, noting her pending retirement at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

After 11 years of teaching at All Saints School in Masontown, Jacobs came to Waynesburg Elementary 28 years ago.

Watching the 20 students run through their lines for the program, it was clear they each took pride in their efforts. Lines were committed to memory, and the choreography from the mice to the Snowflake Fairy were well rehearsed.

Root beer ponds, chocolate roads and a marshmallow moon bring the world of the Tchaikovsky opera to life in a child’s fantasy.

“Everyone has a speaking part and costume,” Jacobs said, pointing out the many articles of clothing that have been donated to her production through the years. From a drum major’s coat and hat for the nutcracker, played by Brennan Matiyasac, to dresses for the ballerinas, the mini-performance has an air of professionalism for such young actors.

Joining Jacobs for the final show will be her husband John, son Kevin, 26, and mother, Mary Matis, 86, of Republic.

“The Nutcracker Suite,” symbolizes Christmas for Jacobs, who fell in love with it many years ago.

“Drive by my house and you will see the Nutcracker in the front yard. You can’t miss it,” she said. Indeed, a drive up Elm Street in Franklin Township includes a view of wooden cutouts of the cast of characters in the Jacobs’ family’s yard.

A step inside the residence, past the Christmas stocking-lined stair case by a tree with handmade decorations and down another set of stairs opens to a collection of nutcrackers started more than 20 years ago. Jacobs said the number had reached 100 plus at last count.

“We have been buying one for Kevin every year since he was little,” said John Jacobs. “I will be perfectly honest with you and say, ‘I am not a fan’ (of the play) but, my wife loves it.”

Even though he doesn’t share her passion for the “Nutcracker Suite,” he has continued to attend the third-grade production each year.

When the final sword fight has ended, the mice have scurried about one last time and the Nutcracker is once again a prince, Jacobs will undoubtedly shed a tear.

“It is Christmas to me,” she said of her favorite production.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.


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