Small-Town Small-Mindedness

While St. Charles, MO, may not technically be a small town, this is an image they like to project, especially when it comes to their yearly, old-fashioned Christmas Traditions festival. The small-mindedness their mayor and city council have shown in regards to the “Sugar Plum Fairy incident” certainly do provide evidence that they are smaller (at least in brain power) than people think.

First of all, the code of conduct is ridiculous. “Christmas characters don’t know naughty words?!?” Everyone knows naughty words. Yes, common sense tells us that there is a time and a place to use them, (if we must–I know I do occasionally), but sometimes, in a moment of frustration, one slips out despite our best intentions. And Laura Coppinger wasn’t even in character when she was at the drug-testing facility, she was just a prospective employee.

Second of all, people who think she’s somehow setting a bad example for children, or reflecting poorly on the city of St. Charles or the Christmas Traditions festival are crazy enough that I think they should be going in for a drug test! They do realize, I assume, that no one would have known that any “naughty words” had been used if they hadn’t made such a big deal out of it? My children certainly wouldn’t have known a profanity had been uttered, and neither would I, (not that I particularly care). But the city had to blow the whole situation out of proportion and make it into something news-worthy, just drawing attention to a momentary lapse in judgement, (on the part of Laura Coppinger), and their own asininity. USA Today even picked up the story–way to make your town look like a bunch of fools!

I had hoped that cooler heads would prevail; that the city would realize that they could accept the actress’s apology, re-hire her, and move on. Apparently, however, they are unable to show the same grace and humility she has shown throughout this ordeal, and instead only defended their dubious decision. While Laura has truly embodied the traits of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the city of St. Charles seems to only take its lessons on Christmas spirit and graciousness from Ebenezer Scrooge! While our family will still support the merchants and the Christmas Traditions festival this year, the experience just won’t be the same for any of us.

Who Fires the Sugar Plum Fairy?

This story is just unbelievable to me. Unless what the “Sugar Plum Fairy” did is wildly different from what was reported in the newspaper, I think it’s a wild overreaction, and gross abuse of power on the part of the city of St. Charles. Laura Coppinger has truly given a voice and a personality to a character in a story who never actually utters a word, and she completely embodies the spirit of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I speak from experience–we’ve been enjoying her performances for many years!

If she was cursing in costume in front of children? Sure, a reprimand is in order. But at a drug-testing facility, off the clock, with no costume? Give me a break. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s a good thing no one’s keeping track of when I use foul language when I’m upset with myself. I’d also really like to know what employee got their panties in a bunch and reported her–again, a gross abuse of power.

I hope the city of St. Charles rethinks this decision. If they don’t, I know two little girls who will be heartbroken if they don’t get to see their favorite Christmas character!

This is a story about how the Sugar Plum Fairy got fired.

Laura Coppinger played the holiday sprite for six years during the Christmas Traditions festival in St. Charles. By all accounts, the 29-year-old was a popular character at the monthlong festival along historic Main Street.

“The spin that I gave to her was that I was a fairy on a sugar high,” she said. “I was really loud and really over the top, and that’s probably why I was the Pied Piper of children,”

Her trouble started with a drug test. Festival hiring came under the control of the city of St. Charles this year, and all city employees are required to take the test. Coppinger was told to report to a local testing facility to give a urine sample.

After she filled the cup she accidentally flushed the toilet, a no-no. Apparently, some people try to dilute their samples with the incoming water.

“I don’t have to take drug tests too often,” she said, ‘so out of habit I flushed the toilet, and as soon as I did it I was like, oh, no.”

Coppinger said the woman working at the facility dumped her sample and told her she would have to go back to the waiting room until she could supply another one.

Coppinger, who also works as a substitute teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools, said that meant she was going to miss a job interview.

“Out of frustration with myself and frustration with the fact that I was going to have to sit another hour, I cursed,” she said.

Coppinger said she didn’t direct her words at anyone, but she was visibly angry, and she stomped back to the waiting room and started slurping down soda and water. A short time later, the woman working the counter told her that she should go home.

“I asked her why and she said, ‘I think you should call St. Charles HR about that,’ ” Coppinger said.

When she called the city, special events coordinator Karen Godfrey told her she had broken the Christmas Traditions code of conduct, specifically a section titled: “Christmas Characters Don’t Know Naughty Words.”

via St. Charles festival clips Sugar Plum Fairy’s wings after she violates anti-cursing rule.

Our Favorite Christmas Tradition

It’s that time of year again! We made the trek to St. Charles, MO, to take part in the “Christmas Traditions” festivities. This is something our whole family looks forward to all year long, and probably my second favorite day of any year (with only Easter bringing more joy and excitement). As usual, we started with lunch at Frankie Tocco’s, where we had a St. Louis style pizza. I’m still not sold on that particular creation, but I did have a very delicious piece of tiramisu for dessert.

After lunch, the hunt to track down as many Christmas characters as possible began. This was our best year yet, with our having collected 25/30 cards. We saw four of the remaining characters from a distance, with only one character (the Town Crier) flying completely beneath our radar…I don’t know, he may not have been there at all today. We also heard carolers, and the fife and drum corps, watched the chestnut roasters as work (Turkey and Bunny even tried them, but only Turkey approved), and saw an intricate train display (probably Moose’s favorite part of the whole day!).

We saw the beloved Master of Revels shortly after we arrived. He is my absolute favorite character–his entire job is giving people a hard time. He told Ladybug that she looked like a giraffe with her pointy hat (not entirely untrue), wished children a happy Arbor Day, Valentine’s Day, and Lincoln’s Birthday (but never Merry Christmas), and hassled fellow performer Jack Frost, all while standing on a park bench. He is absolutely hilarious.

The Master of Revels–do *not* refer to him as the Town Crier!

Too bad I didn’t capture the next expression on Jack Frost’s face–as soon as I put the camera down, he sighed and rolled his eyes. He’s almost as funny as the Master of Revels!

This year was the first time Ladybug was really able to participate, and did she ever enjoy it! She collected cards right alongside her older siblings, and she wasn’t at all shy about having her picture taken with the performers. She decided the “purple angel” was her favorite, and she liked Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden), so much that she walked right into her arms for a picture without even asking. That’s OK, though, because Snegurochka really liked Ladybug, too–just like she did last year! I guess they’re old friends, now!

Ladybug and Snegurochka

We even managed to get a few pretty good pictures of all four children together, which, as any parent of more than one child knows, is nothing short of a miracle!

With the Sugar Plum Fairy

God Jul, Santa Lucia!

Review: San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker

I know I mentioned this production already in another post, but I thought it deserved it’s own review.  With all the different versions of the Nutcracker I’ve seen (both taped and live), this is, hands down, the best.  There are many things that set this apart from the other performances out there (particularly the popular Mikhail Baryshnikov production, which has superb execution by the aforementioned dancer, but lacks in other elements, such as the complete absence of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the somewhat creepy portrayal of Drosselmeier), which make it both unique, and unbelievably beautiful.

First, the setting.  The choice to set it during the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair is genius.  The time period isn’t too removed from the typical Victorian-era productions, but is different enough to give a totally new feel to the ballet.  And, with the ballet taking place in San Francisco, it was able to take advantage of both the beautiful “painted ladies” of that city in Clara’s victorian home, and the eye-catching pavilion from the Fair.

The costumes were also amazing.  Again, this is in part due to the early 20th century setting.  The dresses used in the first act were fresh and beautiful, and even the children’s clothing was different enough from typical productions to be noticeable.  And, the costumes in the second act were as beautiful as they always are, but also different and new (with the possible exception of the snowflakes and their queen, portrayed by the graceful Yuan Yuan Tan, who looked as traditional and wintry as one might hope). The colors used in the costumes from both acts were bold and attractive, and well-suited to being recorded.

The second act has always been my favorite part of the Nutcracker, and it was the same in this production.  The ladybugs, butterflies and dragonflies were adorable as they danced with the Sugar Plum Fairy.  And Vanessa Zahorian as the Sugar Plum Fairy was everything you would expect from that role–beautiful, kind, gracious and elegant.  The Chinese dance was especially delightful, especially with the addition of a very playful dragon.  The French Mirlitons were also enchanting, incorporating rhythmic gymnastics style ribbons into their dance.

The true genius of this particular performance, in my opinion, came near the end.  This production took Clara’s dream to the natural conclusion–not only did she dream her nutcracker a live prince (who was portrayed by Davit Karapetyan), she also saw herself transformed into an adult, able to dance with him.  So, instead of the pas de deux  being danced by the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince, it was danced instead by Clara and her Prince. Now, the child Clara still may not have much of an actual role in the dancing, but the character of Clara at least gets more time, and more complex dances.  Maria Kochetkova was an excellent choice to play the adult Clara, capturing much of the innocence and sweetness that Elizabeth Powell brings to the child Clara character.

I would love to see this become the standard for Nutcracker performances.  I hope PBS (which is where I first become aware of this production in December) will continue to air this every year at Christmastime, as their choice of the best production of the Nutcracker out there.  Hopefully more people will begin to purchase this DVD from stores like Amazon, as well–I find this version to be much more child-friendly than the currently highest rated Baryshnikov production, which is not aging too well (mainly due to 70’s hairstyles and poor costuming choices).

I have to say, this production re-awakened a love for the Nutcracker that I had all but forgotten I had.