Meg Clark as Sally Bowles in SAC’s production of “Cabaret”. Photo by Kyle Lowe.
Life is a cabaret and this one is full of Fools. 15 to be exact.
The Selma Arts Center is happy to invite you inside the Kit Kat Klub in pre-WWII Germany. Fools Board Members Ryan Gilmore and Nicole Spate recently reached out to fellow Fools Michael C. Flores (Director/Choreographer) and Meg Clark (Sally Bowles) to ask them a few questions about Cabaret. Here is their interview.
Q: Michael, What first made you feel connected to Cabaret and why did you want to bring it to the stage this season?A: After seeing Cabaret for the first time, 5 years ago, I remember leaving the show, enthralled, and uneasy. This was something I hadn’t experienced with theatre before, and that feeling stayed with me ever since. When I finally felt ready to submit for the season the year before last — I originally intended to submit Cabaret, but instead ended up doing Bring it On. So, when I planned to submit this past season, it seemed fitting to want to finally put on Cabaret, and I feel like I wouldn’t have been as ready as I am now.
Q:What creative liberties have you taken with this production compared to previous productions of Cabaret?
A: Through various clips I’ve seen of the show, I noticed many similarities especially when it came to the costumes, and choreography. So, I knew I wanted to take some liberties on the choreography inspired by editorial fashion posing, dolls, and of course Fosse. I felt as though this also needed to be attributes the Emcee possess as well, and Abigail fit perfectly, not taking too much from Joel Grey, or Alan Cumming, but embodying the alluring, mysterious, ethereal figure I wanted her to portray. I never thought of it as me casting a woman but instead me casting a person that I felt embodied the qualities I wanted my direction to go in. In that same vein, I spent much time delving it the art movement that is, German Expressionism, this really gave me the courage to be unapologetic with the aesthetic of the Kit Kat Klub, and the queerness of the piece, especially since Cabaret has a queer narrative. Being a fan of film, I looked heavily into German Expressionists influence on cinema. Having been a fan of the work of Tim Burton, and Alfred Hitchcock, and seeing the influence in their work, I felt it easier to create a world in which was glamorous, alluring, yet ominous and distorted in a way. This allowed me to heighten the story telling part of the piece by having the moving mirrors on stage, and it feed into the characters most self reflective, and self destructing moments in the show.
Juan Luis Guzman as Herr Schultz and Amy Esten Ryan as Fräulein Schneider in “Cabaret”. Photo by Kyle Lowe.
Q: This production has an option of purchasing on stage seating. What kind of experience do you hope will one have being seated on the stage as opposed to being seated in the risers?
A: The onstage seating is a real fun way to feel a part of the show, you’re right in the middle of the action, and it’s a different perspective of the show that allows the audience to engage fully into the story. Plus free beverages, and being waited on throughout the night by two fabulous waitresses are perks, too.
Q: What do you hope the audience takes away after leaving this production of Cabaret?
A: In today’s society, I feel we are content with reposting, sharing, and hash tagging, but is that enough? I have been guilty of it, and can certainly do better, in trying to fight what I believe in. This show has allowed me to become more self reflective, and aware. I hope audiences do the same. We can all find a common thread in humanity. I hope people see the show as a reminder to take action before it becomes too late.
Meg Clark and Adam Chavez in “Cabaret”. Photo by Kyle Lowe.
Q: Meg, How did you prepare for the role of Sally Bowles?
A. I was honestly pretty intimidated at the thought of playing Sally. I did a lot of research on the legacy of the character, through the different stage versions and, of course, the 1972 movie. I also did some journaling about Sally/as Sally to explore her psyche and background a bit deeper. Michael C. Flores facilitated some really fascinating conversations between me and Adam Chavez, who plays Cliff, about our characters and their relationship to one another.
Q: Have you personally connected with Sally? If so, how?
A. I have definitely connected with Sally’s fear of being hurt and can understand where her self-preservation tactics are coming from, even if she handles those situations differently than I might.
Other Fools in the production include Adam Chavez (Clifford Bradshaw), Amy Esten Ryan (Fräulein Schneider/ Dialect Coach), Juan Luis Guzman (Herr Shultz), Casey Ballard (Fräulein Kost) , Joshua Plowman (Ernst Ludwig) , Kindle Lynn Cowger (Rosie), Nia Luchau (Lulu), Aaron Pierce (Max), Dominic Grijalva (Graphic Design/Marketing/Additional Scenic Dressing), Kyle Lowe (Production Video/Photo), Damen Pardo (Costume Designer/Costume Construction), Mindy Ramos (Vocal Director/Sound Designer), and Dakota Simpson (Sound Designer).
Cabaret continues it’s run through Saturday Nov. 23 at Selma Arts Center. Tickets range from $17- $30. Cabaret is rated R. For more information, visit their website or follow them on social media.
The original La Cage aux Folles was a French farce written in 1973 by Jean Poiret. It was adapted to a film five years later, then into a musical version five years after that. Many folks who aren't familiar with title might better know the story through the vantage point of the successful 1996 American film remake. The Birdcage (starring such famous names like Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Christine Baranski, and Calista Flockhart), opened at #1 on the US box office charts and stayed there for three weeks before continuing on as a favorite guilty pleasure among video rental houses (r.i.p.) and streaming sites alike.
All versions of the story have the same basic plot: A night club owner and his fabulously flamboyant life-partner embark on a crazy journey when they receive word that their heterosexual son is bringing home his new fiancé's very conservative, very religious, very powerful in-laws-to-be. Chaos ensues with, as Desson Thomson from The Washington Post describes it, "eyeliner to one-liners."
One might like to think the world has advanced far enough from the social politics of the 70's and 80's (and even the 90's) to hope a show like La Cage is no longer topical. Unfortunately, in a society where gay youth still disproportionately experience homelessness, where trans women continue to be killed at alarming rates, and where the president of the United States continues to roll back LGBTQIA rights, the script remains just as necessary for American audiences to ingest as it was thirty years ago.
Damen Pardo, who has performed in drag multiple times at Fools events, is very at home in his role as a "Cagelle" (one of the drag queens) in this cast. "In a culture that still undervalues different types of non-traditional family dynamics, this show presents that conflict against tradition in a comedic way that is still able to tug at your heart strings," he says. "I think it might be a thing where many people in the audience will find themselves thinking of family in a new way, maybe even for the first time."
Fool Michael C. Flores, another one the SWF production's Cagelles, agrees. "Sometimes family isn’t always what you’re born with, especially in the LGBTQ+ community. Underneath the feathers and glitter of this show, there’s an important lesson of pride and acceptance that still needs to be told."
Flores says that building non-traditional family is just as much a behind-the-scenes theme as the story itself. "My favorite part about being in the cast is the bond I’ve made with my fellow Cagelles," he says. "Prepping for drag is kind of a vulnerable thing to do, and we’ve all helped each other along the way. "
For someone like Pardo, who often performs as his alter-ego Harley Sinn, being in a theatrical production of a drag show has been different from performing in a regular drag show, in the best kind of way. "As a working drag queen, I've never been so catered to!" he says, with delight. "I'm usually the one doing everything myself but here I have someone picking out my costumes, helping with my make-up, helping with my wig. People are constantly asking for my advice, which I do give happily, but it's nice to all feel a little taken care of, too."
La Cage opens tonight (July 26th) and runs until August 11 at the Dan Pessano Theatre at Clovis North High School campus. Other Fools in the production include Terry Lewis and Joel Abels, alongside many other dear and talented community members.
Visit StageWorks Fresno's website for more information or to purchase tickets. Get them quickly, though. Opening weekend is already sold out!
All Brooke Aiello Cabaret Cal Arts Cyndle Cee Dakota Simpson Damen Pardo Fools In Good Company Players Government Inspector Heather Parish HypoTheatricals Joel Abels Juan Luis Guzman Justin Ray La Cage Aux Folles Meg Clark Michael C. Flores My Cousin Rachel Randy Kohlruss Rodolfo Robles Cruz Second Space Selma Arts Center Severance Sinnta StageWorks Fresno Terry Lewis Thomas Nance Wait Until Dark