CABARET 1998 Revival
I'm interested in plays that deal with social and political issues, and none is more poignant than that of the Holocaust. CABARET deals with the juxtaposition of the extremely tolerant society that Berlin was in the 1930's and the rise of Nazi Germany.
The play is based on the memoirs of Christopher Isherwood, a gay British writer who went to Berlin to experience sexual freedom and self-awareness and witnessed Hitler's ascent to power and its effects on the people living in Berlin.
Throughout this process, I have been struck by two very strong messages that resonate within the play. The first: a strong message against hate of any kind. The second: a warning against becoming too complacent, about being so self-absorbed that you do not notice the monster that lurks on the horizon. Both these messages are still extremely relevant in the society we live in today.
In our diverse culture, our protagonist Cliff is an African American man. As a result, we cannot help but be surprised, in Act II, when Fraulein Schneider tells Cliff that things are "easy" for him, since as an American he can go anywhere he wants. In the reality of the 1930's, life in America would not have been so easy for him. We have therefore created a Cabaret that recreates 1930's Berlin, while simultaneously reminding us that we are actually watching the play with the awareness of 2014.
With the polarization of politics and media, our willingness to put all of our personal info online, our complacency in the face of revelations of NSA spying and the pursuit of whistleblowers like Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden; with hate crimes such as the murder of Trayvon Martin and the continued resistance to gay marriage and women's rights; the play serves to remind us all that we must continue to be vigilant in order to avoid insidious elements to work their way into our current culture.
ADDITIONAL INFO ABOUT THE PRODUCTION:
My vision was to have the audience feel as if they were part of the Kit Kat Klub. As a result, Set Designer Daniel Thobias created an evocative environmental design, in which the spectators sat at tables and were served food and drinks. I ensured that the Cabaret girls and boys all had characters, even in their offstage moments. You could often see them lingering in the corners, playing out subtle stories of their own. We also had a Madame, two orphan children and waitresses, each of whom greeted the audience and had their own story to tell. The Cabaret numbers, choreographed by Michael Lang, included table dancing and interaction with the audience.
The rich video component, designed by Holly Hey, showed the character's desires and thoughts, and also communicated with the audience through images from current politics, in particular moments, such as when Sally Bowles asks Cliff the question "Is America the answer?" The Kit Kat Klub Sign (also a projection) deteriorated and broke down over time, until only the letters KKK remained lit. This occurred after Cliff was beaten by Nazis (who simultaneously bore some resemblance to Neo-Nazis thanks to Erica Frank's excellent costume design).
The whole play came together through the Emcee (Noah York) whose constant presence onstage, and Brechtian character transcended time and place and constantly reminded the audience that it is actually 2014, and we still have many questions to resolve.