WE BACK, Y'ALL! Just like Jim Carrey turned into NPH, this year's weekend of special events features a whole new cast. Between genderbent song selections and the inner workings of several distressed humans, you've got 2 jam-packed days of immense talent and artistry. Here we go!
Role of a Lifetime: A Miscast Concert
This Friday, January 27, a cast of 10 hilarious individuals join together *FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY* to put on an insightful concert style event called Role of a Lifetime: A Miscast Concert. Those funny songs you know and love from famous musicals across the spectrum will be performed by the opposite gender in this attention-grabbing performance. To preserve the secrecy of the set list, I've hidden all of the song titles and character names. LEEYYGGOOOO
From an actor's perspective, it might be a challenge to accurately portray the message of each song without the traditional gender to back it up. That wasn't an issue for these folks, at least according to the ever-present Benji Sills (Communication, Senior). "For each character I did some research to figure out how they might move and sound based on previous performances and interpretations! I think [traditionally female character name!] has some things in common with other characters, but her voice and body are different in other ways, some of which are dictated by the frustration she feels at her situation." Hint - he's feeling a little *under the weather* ;) ;) ;) ;)
Rachel Horner, fresh from a semester abroad in Spain, was super excited to be back in the states (obvi bc i live here), and jumped right into rehearsals at Cab for this show, and talked to me more about the challenges of gender swap aspect. "It was definitely a challenge to find an appropriate key for each song, because the songs had to fit each of our voices while still maintaining the integrity of the original song. We also had to make sure that we conveyed the characters of each song without relying on its melodic features or its typical sound. It's hard to try to portray masculinity while singing in a female's range, but it was an exciting challenge as a performer, and I'm glad to have had an opportunity like this!"
From the audience's perspective, this cast isn't having any issue with conveying the proper messages - the songs are all funny and so are these performers. Here's a live conversation between me and Shayna:
Me: you're funny. how do you work on being funny? i need to know. for science.
Shayna: I'm not funny. It's an illusion. If anything I do during the show makes you laugh, it's not me. It's the song. Or Ajit's direction. But definitely not me.
Fun fact: this is a lie.
Later, I asked Tyler Conroy the same question. He said "Haha so I mean, if there's one thing I've learned it's that if you're trying to be funny on stage, you're not going to be. You've gotta just go out there and have fun, and make sure that you're prepared. Humor comes from the writing, so as an actor, you've gotta just understand what it is that your character is trying to get, and find the humor in that. I guess maybe I'm a little funny too."
Paolo Arceo dazzles the stage with his vocals and original choreography, which was a brand new experience for him, which *spoiler alert* may include some "low key" "sexy" things. This was a pretty uncomfortable thing for me to type on this sort of a platform and probably was weird to have to read in your head, but trust that the dancing is better than the way I described it.
Not only does our Miscast cast and pro staff have a blast flip flopping the conventional gender roles in this concert, they're diffusing society's gender norms at the same time.
Ajit J. Mathews, our talented associate producer, is the mastermind behind this concert and has done a wonderful job of breaking down these barriers. "Two main things inspired me to create this Miscast concert. First off, I love the idea of 'nontraditional' casting, because I think it’s unfortunate that things like gender or race or hair color can actually prevent a talented person from playing a role that they’re otherwise perfect for. I think that all the individuals in this show are terrific at the songs they sing throughout the concert, from the way they portray the character to the way they interpret the text and the music, and for something as trivial as gender to prevent them from singing these songs is silly to me. This concert lets us break down those boundaries. The second reason is that I think it’s funny to have a girl sing about her erection."
^That was a spoiler without an alert! Throwing you some curve balls to get you to come see this show - which again, is ONE NIGHT ONLY.
The music in this concert was hand picked by Ajit, who worked really closely with Maya Mitterhoff (Music Education - Voice, Sophomore) to work on getting the keys correct as well as fitting the correct voices into the roles. On the song selection, Ajit said, "What makes this concert funny and interesting is that every song was originally written as very “ladylike” or “feminine” or as very “manly” or “masculine.” Having the “wrong” gender sing these songs lets us reveal and poke fun at how gendered some of our favorite show tunes are, sometimes in ways we’d never really consciously thought about before. Show tunes about men sexualizing themselves are few and far between, but the sheer number of songs written for women that put them in this same situation is almost... comical." As a girl who spent the last 2 years singing the bass part in an all female a cappella group, I feel dis.
Bottom line, if you are a person who loves theatre, loves laughing, and wants to see a bunch of college kids sing songs that definitely weren't written for their voices, this is the show for you. Reserve your tickets here!
The Panic Attack Play
On the very next night, Cab is opening their doors once again for the public to witness yet another work of art called The Panic Attack Play, directed by Celine Dirkes and Sarah Ferreira, both of whom also perform in the cast! A production that was written by its talented cast, The Panic Attack Play hopes to "[increase] empathy for those who suffer panic attacks, as well as sharing information about what causes them and coping tactics." <--I stole this from the facebook event description because I definitely couldn't have said this any better.
This show reaches the audience from a variety of different platforms - from it's speech, to carefully thought out movements, and even a musical number, any audience member, no matter their experience, will be able to come out of this show having made some sort of connection.
Celine Dirkes, Cabaret's own General Board Representative, first proposed the show and talked to me a little about how the rehearsal process worked. To my surprise, being the director of a show you're also performing in wasn't as difficult for her as I would have thought. "The experience of co-directing a show while being in it at the same time didn't feel very different for me than it feels to direct. My major philosophy of directing is that we are a team, not a hierarchy, one single ensemble working towards making the best possible show. I feel like that extends logically into the devising process with just a shift in responsibility. Now the roles we all perform in making the show work are less defined, but we still shared the same goal."
As for writing the actual script, the cast worked together to create a show that reflected their experiences with panic attacks, as well as provide the audience with an opening for understanding and empathizing, which all stemmed from a strong foundation of trust in self-expression that Celine and Sarah fostered from the very beginning. "At the beginning of the process Sarah and I taught several movement and improv based exercises that encouraged people to access their bodies and become comfortable sharing personally created narratives. As the process continued we brainstormed concepts as a group and used improv to explore potential directions before coming to a consensus and finalizing a script. In some ways our script still isn't "finished" because we have passages where cast members "riff" like a jazz musician would. The exact wording is not our priority, but rather communicating the essence of the skit."
Jillian Hanna is no stranger to Cabaret, but she was telling me how The Panic Attack Play really helped her get back to her acting roots. Since the rehearsal process only spanned several of really long, intense days after the end of winter break, this cast of 6 really had to get the ball rolling right from the beginning. "For me, the biggest takeaway is understanding that it is indeed possible to create something out of essentially nothing. all we started with was the seed text. we literally came together over winter break and created a show in just days, which is pretty impressive to me. All you really need to perform something is an idea and the will to get it done."
They've got lights, they've got choreo, they've got some dope seed text stuff going on, all put together into an incredible show that Cabaret is holding for literally one night - EVER. Don't miss out, reserve your tickets now!