Midnight Cabaret, by Moriah Mason '09, photography by Dan Bretl '07 + illustration by Ken Hocker
True to its name, this student club puts on a variety show every Friday (guess what time?), performing eclectic work that participants—who hail from a variety of artistic disciplines—create in the span of a single week.
Monday, May 7, 2007: Performing Arts Center
This will be the last Cabaret of the year, as well as my last Cabaret as co-chair (along with Eli Taylor '07), so I am feeling sentimental. It is also conference week, and everyone who enters the dance studio for our brainstorming session has that glassy-eyed, I - haven't - slept - for - two - months - and - I - still - have - forty - pages - to - write - and - my - computer - crashed - and - my - boyfriend/girlfriend - broke - up - with - me - and - I'm - on - the - guaranteed - housing - waitlist - and - need - to - find - a - roommate - I - won't - kill look.
Normally we begin rehearsal with a brainstorming seed word, like “karma” or “cookies.” We sit in a circle and everyone says the first idea, image, or story that word makes them think about. Then we combine different ideas to create collaborative pieces, assigning each one to anywhere between one and five people, who will develop the piece—writing scripts, choreographing dances, composing music, assembling props—before the next rehearsal.
Because this is the last performance of the year, we skip the routine and ask people to propose pieces they wanted to do all year but never had the chance to perform. Eventually we end up with a cast of 22 and a list of proposed pieces nearly as long, including several comedic sketches, two original songs, a tap dance to heavy metal music, and a burlesque dance.
Normally we would meet Wednesday and Thursday nights to rehearse, but because it is conference week, we decide to do a marathon rehearsal on Friday, when we will supposedly be finished with our work, and rehearse from 6 p.m. until the show.
Friday, May 11, 2007: Titsworth Lecture Hall
Since Monday we have lost three cast members and gained a new one, and several pieces have been dropped due to lack of time or organization. Everyone is tired and happy to be done with the year, but rehearsal feels a lot like herding cats at first. Everyone is talking at the same time, and five people have five different ideas about how the rehearsal should be run. Eventually we make a coherent list of pieces. Then we cast them and break our time into segments, rehearsing as many as three pieces at once.
I am responsible for a skit Raney Cumbow '08 and I wrote over winter break, about searching for an apartment in New York City after graduation. I haven't really looked at the script since we wrote it, so memorizing is my biggest concern. Our skit is also divided into lots of quick scenes separated by blackouts, so remembering the order of scenes and ensuring that each setup is quick and easy requires several run-throughs, but we finish our rehearsal feeling fairly good about it.
At 8 p.m. everyone who isn't working on the a capella song leaves for dinner or a sleep break, and at 9 the burlesque dancers meet to learn their dance and put together costumes. We order pizza and gobble it down before the rest of the cast returns at 10 for the dress rehearsal.
Halfway through the dress rehearsal a red-eyed Spike Donovan '10, who will chair the club next year along with Beth Hintze '10, enters the lecture hall. Spike has been sick for the past couple of weeks and had bowed out of rehearsal to get some sleep. During his nap, he explains, he was inspired to perform a speech from Sophocles's Aias, and after hearing his reading we decide to stick it in the show. I am a little apprehensive about it. When Spike read the speech it felt somewhat long and flat to me, and I hope he has enough time to really prepare it for the show.
We finish rehearsing and open the house at 11:45. The jam session is going, and people fill the room, talking and dancing for the next 15 minutes.
Saturday, May 12, 2007: midnight
The show begins. The cast members introduce themselves, and our emcees for the evening, Eli Taylor and Lauren Parrish '07, pump up the crowd with their own excitement and anxiety about the end of conference, the end of the year, and, for them, the end of their college and Cabaret careers.
The show comes out strongly, with a good mix of comedy, music, and dance. The audience members are ready to laugh, and they do. Spike's monologue throws in an element of serious drama. He proves my worries unfounded, performing the speech with a fierce intensity and emotion that commands my attention.
After the show, cast and audience fill the stage, dancing once again to our jam band. People are celebrating and saying goodbye. Around them the cast is cleaning up, and by 2 a.m. I am able to clear everyone out and call security to lock up the place. I am filled with a mixture of sadness and relief as I leave Titsworth. One of my favorite things about Cabaret is the way it evolves to fit the needs of each year's group of students. I know it will never be the same, but there's no time for nostalgia now, because I am heading to the cast party.
Moriah Mason '09 is spending her junior year studying development in Tanzania, India, New Zealand, and Mexico. At Sarah Lawrence she concentrates in development, dance, and running Midnight Cabaret.