With “The Nutcracker” season upon us, we thought we would time travel back to the beginning.

On June 21, 1963, the NC legislature, urged on by Governor Terry Sanford, appropriated $325,000 to establish the North Carolina School of the Arts. A ferocious competition to become the host location for the new school broke out amongst the state’s largest cities. In a whirlwind telephone campaign led by Ralph Hanes and Meade Willis, among others, Winston-Salem raised $850,000 from more than 5,000 local citizens.


This photo of Smith Bagley, one of RJ Reynolds’ grandsons, accompanied an article in the Winston-Salem Journal about the telephone fund raising campaign in 1964

On April 28-29, 1964, the Advisory Board of Artists selected Winston-Salem as the site. High school classes began on the former Gray High School campus on September 7, 1965. College students reported two weeks later, on September 21.

The first year, students performed “Amahl and the Night Vistors” as a Christmas play. In the second year, the Nutcracker debuted before standing room only crowds at the R.J. Reynolds Auditorium on December 10-11, 1966.

NutcrackerEarlyPerfNutcracker performance at Reynolds Auditorium with NCSA students and the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra, 1966 or 1967.

Now we have a photograph taken, we think, during a rehearsal for that first performance in a dance studio in the old Gray High School building. We are able to identify, in the foreground, the principal creators of the production, Duncan Noble, Robert Lindgren and Sonja Tyven, and are pretty sure that one of the others is Eugene Lowery, a student who worked on the production. The person in the foreground marked with a ? is, for the moment, unidentified. I think I know who he is, but for the time being his name has disappeared into a black hole in my brain. As always, click on the pic for a larger size.


But the folks in the background are currently a mystery. The reasoning is that since the performance was sponsored by the Junior League of Winston-Salem, that this is a group of league members invited to watch a rehearsal. That may be wrong, but it is a start.


Click to enlarge

Anyone out there know any of these folks?