Ranting With Cyle: ‘Come to the Cabaret’ by Cyle Durkee

Cabaret is a form of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre. It is mainly distinguished by the performance venue, a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances with the audience sitting at tables, often dining or drinking (cabaret also refers to a Mediterranean-style brothel {wikipedia actually had the best definition for once [and also gave me a great parenthetical in the form of a cat house…I’m super excited]}).

So…that’s what a cabaret is. Now what is a cabaret to us?  This is the question that I put to local stage, film, and cabaret ingenue Gia Mora (and seeing as how she is wicked smart, we found some very interesting thoughts {and some jumping up and down and giggling}).

Well, let’s start with what cabaret is to DC.  In a word: struggling.

The cabaret scene in DC is basically inaccesible if you don’t already know about it.  There are a few places to go for information like the DC Cabaret Network, but other than that you either know someone who does it or you have no idea that it exists. And while hipsters might eat that BS up, I personally prefer my art with a side order of audience (and yes, cabaret is an art {and yes, audiences, like side dishes are either amazing or bland and tasteless [I don’t actually put audience members in my mouth…usually]}).

So why is the cabaret world so insulated? I decided after discussing this that Gia was right in her assumption that people simply don’t know what cabaret is. They have an idea in their head that it is someone up on stage singing the standards as they think standards are meant to be sung (meaning how the originator sang them), or it’s some college kids singing a bunch of songs that they never got to or might never get to sing on stage (this is the worst kind as the only thing worth watching is the poor kid’s head deflating as they realize that they can’t hold an audience’s attention with inside jokes that they created with their friends {and the second realization: That they have another 45 minutes of slow, agonizing stage death in front of them [pass the popcorn!]}).

Cyle Durkee.

So let’s not talk about these misconceptions (or preconceptions, as it were {I’d like to think we are getting better}). Let’s discuss what cabaret is actually becoming. Cabaret, while it began with wandering minstrels and bards many centuries ago is now becoming its own, recognized art form, and as such is beginning to develop some real quality acts at a regional level. Cabaret is basically a solo performance by someone who wants to take the audience on a journey. It’s a one man/woman show (it’s not a random series of songs that happen to fall within your range {or a chance to sing all the way through your audition book}). There should be a link to the audience and an artistic integrity that allows for a cohesion of narrative.

The intimate nature of cabaret means that the audience gets to put everything you do on that stage under a microscope (so it better be great). New artists in this field present fully fleshed out emotional journeys. And you might be thinking that that makes this a one person musical…but you’re smarter than that (apologies for even beginning to think that you weren’t totally ahead of the curve on this one). There are no costume or set changes (though occasionally some drunken asshole will fall through a table or shatter your tip jar, which might be considered a set change {and you don’t even get charged for that entertaining bonus}. And sometimes some drunken harlot will spill red wine on your white dress {which is why we don’t wear those}). This creates an intimacy all its own. It unfetters the relationships with the audience by limiting the distractions created by pomp and circumstance. And the stories are not meant simply to set up a song for the audience. They are meant to be the next step on the journey. It is much more a chance for an artist to experiment with the balance of spoken word and song than to create a ‘book’ and ‘score.’

As it stands now. We have a long way to go in our understanding and production of true cabarets as an art form.  This can be helped by supporting this emerging art. Go to a friend’s cabaret. If it’s fabulous, let them know that and go see them again. If it is not fabulous, let them know that too.  Try to be supportive (a good line is “I didn’t really understand the story arc.” And most people will respond by writing a new arc {though some will say “It’s not supposed to have a story.” at which point you should hit them with a brick and tell them to stop wasting everyone’s time and money [you god damn egomaniac]}). But if support doesn’t work then , please, let them know that you didn’t enjoy it and don’t go to another one of their shows. And yes, you can be an amazing singer, but an awful performer (and audiences don’t need to be totally turned off by you).

I, for one, am going to go see Gia Mora perform at the Black Fox Lounge on the 25th of August. I’m extra excited about this one because it actually involves science as one of its themes (and quantum mechanics is my hobby). So come and meet me down at the Black Fox and let me know what you think of the show (maybe I’ll even include some audience blurbs in my review of it). Thanks Gia for being fabulous!! And thank you in advance DC for helping bring a new and enlivening art form to our already amazing city!!


Gia Mora

Nationally touring actor and vocalist Gia Mora brings her latest solo show, Sweethearts & Singletons, to Black Fox Lounge on Saturday, August 25, 2012. Show time is 8:00 p.m. Black Fox Lounge is located at 1723 New Hampshire Avenue NW in Dupont Circle, just blocks from the Dupont North Metro Station.

Sweethearts & Singletons explores the “science of love… theoretically speaking.” Mora turns her signature wit and intellectual prowess on an unlikely paring of human languages – love and mathematics. In her hilarious show, she investigates dating in the digital age through a journey to the edges of the universe and the interior of your heart. She combines beloved jazz standards with original songs  and stories guaranteed to thrill and edify sweethearts and singletons alike.


Gia Mora’s website.

Read more of Cyle Durlee’s articles and reviews on DC Theater Arts.



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