When I went to the Nutcracker earlier this month, I saw bunnies backstage. When TBD's Steve Buttry went last night, he saw bunnies outside. Mine were child performers; his were PETA demonstrators.
PETA, with its costumed rabbit holding a "Fur is Tutu Cruel" sign, is the second organization to demonstrate in front of the Washington Ballet's Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre for multiple nights. The first was the D.C. Federation of Musicians, who were upset about the ballet's decision to use recorded music. They handed out fliers and played music in front of the theater for opening weekend.
Unlike the musicians' union, PETA has no issue with the ballet (there are plenty of furry costumes on stage, but they're all faux). Arth says the ballet was chosen as a demonstration site more to get the word out about fur cruelty to theater patrons who might be wearing it to the show.
"We decided to go to the ballet as a fun and upbeat way to remind people about the cruelty of fur," says D.C. organizer Katie Arth. "Most people loved the dancing bunny and fox we had out there."
The protest is part of a national PETA campaign to put demonstrators in front of operas and ballets. Says PETA's website: "With the holiday season upon us, the temperatures are dropping, and cold-hearted fur hags everywhere are coming out in full force. No matter where you reside, you can be sure that a local fur hag is dusting off an animal carcass disguised as a coat, hat, or scarf for a night out at the ballet or opera."
Alyssa Porambo, public relations manager for the Washington Ballet, said she wasn't aware until now that PETA had been handing out fliers in front of their performances, in costume. "We don't have any control over what patrons wear inside or outside of the ballet," she said.
Arth says that PETA will be demonstrating in front of at least one more performance of the ballet before Christmas, depending on volunteer availability. As for fur, did Arth see anyone wearing it to the ballet?
"Most people are telling us it's faux," she says.