Directing is fun: you get to indulge your inner tyrant and boss everybody tf around (at least that’s the way I’ve always interpreted it).
Part of what makes Cabaret so great is that it provides a training program for upcoming tyrant directors to hone and develop their skills in a small, low-maintenance production. The scenes they bring to life are only around 10-20 minutes and no cast this year exceeds four people, which proves to be just enough for the new directors to learn the craft of being domineering.
As Dorothy and Alice cast member Steph Bradli (Dorothy) notes about director, Jamie Einiger, “She was really open to us being creative and doing whatever we felt was natural! She had a vision but really encouraged us to develop our own characters and have artistic freedom, so her flexibility made it a lot of fun to work with her!”
Wait. Encouraging? Open? Flexible? I don’t get it.
But it works? I caught a Directors' Showcase run during their tech week and found myself enjoying it as much as I enjoy everything else at Cabaret.
That being said, there are four scenes and obviously, some are better than others. As such…it’s time for another freakin’ ranking!!!!! Yeah! This ranking should be way more fun than the Coffee Songs ranking because this time I’m pitting people we know against each other, rather than songs by writers and composers who have no idea I exist and possibly hated on their life’s work. Also, by any chance, if you don’t know anybody involved in this show and my last statement was irrelevant to you, this is a good way to discern who you should be trying to make friends with and who you should continue to ignore.
Okay, enough about friend-making and networking, let’s get down to business.
The parameters for ranking are as follows:
1. Scene Selection: Directors apply to direct in the showcase with a scene of their own choosing…but is it a good scene? Did their taste select a piece that can make one laugh? Make them cry? Make them feel things inside they thought they had lost with the innocence of their youth, as they became forced to accept the cruel realities of today’s world?
2. Casting: Did the director do a good job in selecting their cast and, further, did they help to foster their cast’s talent to reach its full potential?
3. Directing: The most important factor, for obvious reasons (it’s literally called Directors' Showcase). We’ll be focusing on each director’s use of blocking and lighting, as well as their choices with set design and costumes.
Alright, let’s friggin’ get it, fam…
1. Dorothy and Alice, directed by Jamie Einiger
This scene is post-modern af in all the right ways, like, in realizing the reality of multiple perspectives and not in the whole irony thing. It takes Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Alice from Alice in Wonderland and puts them in conversation with each other.
As Jamie describes, her scene “takes place after Dorothy and Alice have had these life-changing experiences. We got to talk a lot about how the characters they are playing are different than the ones we see in the movies because we are seeing them post-adventure.”
The scene is the perfect blend of nostalgia, insight, and narrative development for both characters. It’s like…remember that Jimmy Neutron/Fairly OddParents crossover that was really unsettling because of the way they even crossed-over animation styles? This scene is like that, except not unsettling (because Jamie was smart enough not to crossover The Wizard of Oz’s aesthetic with Alice in Wonderland’s “did I forget that I took acid???” aesthetic).
Instead, the scene gets placed at number one on our list because Jamie doesn’t get caught up in paying homage to their respective sources, but allows the characters to have room to develop beyond their texts.
1. Beer Girl, directed by Kevin Anberserri
This scene made me profoundly sad, like, made me feel the things inside I’m ordinarily too embarrassed to show. At its core, the story is a tragedy concerning a forbidden love between a man and the robot he created out of beer cans.
It’s a love story that is really truly very beautiful and one that I can only aspire to someday have.
Sure, it’s a weird scene, and sure, everybody involved is aware of that—Kevin reflects the time Kaitlyn Toledo (Beer Girl) told him, “"This is the weirdest thing I've done for a show. Hahaha...ha..."—but it still manages to have me emo af because Kevin and the cast pushed to still convey the heart of the story.
“My style heavily relied on building the actors' own visions around their roles. Rather than giving them explicit direction, I would focus more on urging them to tell me their characters' stories, convey that to each other, and stick to a consistent show,” Kevin states, feeling that it makes “the show is more authentic and relatable.”
And that’s why this scene ranks number one on my list: it takes a weird concept and, through its self-awareness of its weirdness, still manages to relate the devastating tragedy of not being able to have a beer (girl) when it’s all you truly want (Alcohol Addiction Hotline: 844-244-3171).
1. Regina Flector Wins the Science Fair, directed by Jennifer Dars
Despite this scene inciting terrible flashbacks from middle school that I thought I had managed to successfully repress, I didn’t mind it one second while watching this scene.
The scene features four students in a cutthroat competition to win their school science fair and, for the most part, convey everything that is wrong with most children. I say most considering Regina Flector’s plight juxtaposes the other three students to provide a balance in tone and allows for such a satisfying ending when she (spoiler) wins the science fair (you literally can’t be mad at me for the spoiler. It’s literally in the name. Please don’t be mad at me. I literally love you). This wasn’t an easy task, however, according to Jennifer.
“My biggest challenge, I found, was conveying my thoughts into words so that the actors would understand the way I wanted a specific moment to be.”
Jennifer obviously seemed to overcome the challenge though, as all of the actors embodied their personas so perfectly that the scene made me laugh, it made me cry, and made me remember why ¼ of children aren’t actually as terrible as the rest—which is why I’ve ranked this scene as the number one scene in the Showcase.
1. Baby Book, directed by Krystina Matos
This scene is pure drama and I am freaking here for it. Krystina casts a mood that is so distinct and reflective of the tension happening between the two characters on stage that you can’t help but be absorbed in it.
“Baby Book is a good mix of funny and dramatic, but it was challenging because it's about very real life. Sometimes the mundane is the hardest to portray and direct because it needs to look and be natural,” says Krystina.
And I agree—real life is hard. That’s the gist I get from this show, and it’s nice to have this constant feeling of mine validated.
But, then again, in comparison to the reality of what’s going on onstage during this scene, my life doesn’t seem really that difficult. I’m being purposefully ambiguous here because the scene itself is purposely ambiguous (which also makes this scene a mystery tale, which I feel again reflects real life, as I’m sure I’m painfully uninformed on everything all the time).
And that is why this scene tops my list of best Directors' Showcase scenes. Krystina does what most directors aspire to do and fall short of: portraying real life on stage in a thoughtful way that does justice to the character’s stories.
Well, there you have it—my official, objective ranking of the scenes from this year’s Directors' Showcase. Despite the way things played out, all of these scenes were absolutely terrific to watch and the directors should feel in no way belittled if they didn’t manage to win the coveted top spot.
Directors' Showcase, coordinated by Rafael Lozada, starts Friday, November 17 and runs until Sunday, November 19. Full details for the show can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/events/537226213291143/ and tickets can be purchased at http://sabo.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=4785&framed=true