San Francisco's Nutcracker

A Virtual Event

By: - Dec 08, 2020

A HOLIDAY TRADITION REVISED: SAN FRANCISCO BALLET’S NUTCRACKER BECOMES A VIRTUAL EVENT. San Francisco Ballet met tremendous challenges when it performed the first Nutcracker in the United States on Christmas Eve 1944, bringing cheer in the midst of war. Now, it responds to current necessities by moving the production from on stage to online with a dazzling virtual event to be enjoyed at home. Fran Jamison, director of marketing at San Francisco Ballet, talks about the transformation.

DJ: Bringing such a beloved and well-known ballet like Nutcracker into people’s homes as a virtual event is quite an undertaking. How did it come about?

FJ: San Francisco Ballet had partnered with Blueprint Studios on past in-person events and we were curious about what might be possible when we heard that they also worked on virtual events. We knew we would be unable to perform Nutcracker live, but we wanted a way to celebrate the holiday season. It was important to us to allow patrons who have supported us for years by attending Nutcracker to be able to continue traditions from the safety of their own homes. When talking to Blueprint about what a virtual event might look like, we quickly realized that we could actually build a virtual event to emulate the full experience of a trip to the War Memorial Opera House. This was something that was really exciting to us and something our patrons would enjoy.

DJ: Ticket holders are invited to guide themselves on an immersive digital journey through the War Memorial Opera House. How does this work?

FJ: A virtual ticket allows a household 48 hours of access to our digital platform. Through the interactive exploration, you use your mouse or arrow keys to move yourself around our Virtual Opera House. You can learn moves from Nutcracker choreography with Wendy Van Dyck, a former principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, and hear from orchestra members about their favorite music in Nutcracker. There’s a podcast full of the rich history of Nutcracker, as well as a historical timeline video. There’s an Activity Guide with spot-the-difference games, word searches, coloring activities, and crosswords. There is a photo booth to take snaps that can be sent directly to friends and family or uploaded to social media and links to the ballet shop to purchase holiday gifts. Or, you can find our Face Filters through Instagram and turn yourself into our Snow Queen, Sugar Plum Fairy, or Nutcracker!

DJ: What production version of Nutcracker will be seen?

FJ: The high definition Nutcracker stream was captured on stage at the War Memorial Opera House in 2007 and released on DVD in 2008. It’s a co-production between San Francisco Ballet and KQED Public Television in association with Thirteen/WNET New York. There are many dancers in this version of Nutcracker who are still dancing in the Company — notably Yuan Yuan Tan, who celebrates her 25th anniversary with the Company this year!

DJ: How did the SF Ballet staff gear up to get all this done?

FJ: Ingrid Roman, our Associate Director of Events, has been integral to the build out of Nutcracker Online. Our incredible Ticketing Services staff, led by Betsy Lindsey, pivoted to a new ticketing system and new way of serving our customers. There has also been a core team in our marketing department that has worked incredibly hard over the last few months to bring this idea to life. From creating videos, designing activity books, building emails and working with our vendors to ensure a smooth transition to a digital offering — it has been a team effort!

NUTCRACKER ONLINE PARTICULARS. The expansive 2020 San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker Online digital experience is available through Dec. 31. Admission is priced at $49 for 48-hour access. For tickets and digital viewing tips visit Take a sneak peek at And find out what it took to get Nutcracker onstage in


Susan Cohn is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. She may be reached at