Monday, June 24, 2013

What's a cabaret enjeneu doing in Indy Fringe?

Never in my life did I think I could perform in the Indy Fringe Festival. But, then again, I never dreamt that a year ago, I would be one of 20 students at the International Cabaret Conference at Yale University.  After being downright terrified to be a solo performer, the best part about finally doing it is that I have nearly ZERO expectations about it and its outcomes.  Well, okay, yes, I want to successful, but I'm okay knowing that I'll probably not make it to Broadway. ("Never say never 'cause no one ever hears." -- Princess Bride ;o)  I'm grateful that I don't have to quit my day job and can enjoy whatever may come from it and learn along the way. 

Why did I doubt me + Indy Fringe?
(A) I'm not an actor.
(B) I don't consider myself particularly "edgy" (if you know what I mean).
(C) I didn't know the first thing about creating a show.
(I'll spare you reasons D-Z.)

All of that changed when I attended the International Cabaret Conference at Yale University last August. My fellow 19 classmates from around the globe and star-studded faculty gave me the education and confidence to think "what if?" "why not?" Several of them had performed cabarets in other fringe festivals. Why not me? Why not in Indy? (Read more about "Gail @ Yale")

I also spoke to Indy Fringe Executive Director, Pauline Moffat, who has been very supportive.  "The Fringe is for everyone," she said. "It's your opportunity to show us the Gail we've never seen before." Well, that may be, but I'm still not quite that "edgy."

We are truly fortunate to have such an outlet for performing artists like me as well as seasoned professionals who want to try something new, be exposed to new audiences, and simply for the love of performing.  Indy Fringe is not juried or curated or based on a lottery system.  Indy Fringe takes the first 64 performing groups to apply and pay the application fee.  All of the ticket sales go back directly to the artists.  The result is a beautiful cacophony of theatre, music, magic, comedy, acrobatics, and more over 10 days in six venues downtown Indianapolis.

I was incredibly intimidated by the idea of creating a show with a French theme.  It was originally created as a fundraiser for Dance Kaleidoscope in March during their performance featuring all music by Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf -- two ICONIC French composers/performers.  Several of Brel's most popular songs were translated into English for the 1968 Off-Broadway hit show "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris".  He is a masterful poet, story-teller and romantic contemporary composer who's truth cuts to the core of the human experience and emotion.  Juxtaposed by Edith Piaf, the original French cabaret poster-child who's life was most recently made famous in the movie "La Vie En Rose." She is the most famous, influential chanson in French history, with an unmistakably voice and sound. Powerfully and passionately, she bled her music as a reflection of her own tragic real life story.

I listened. I read about them. I researched the songs. Repeat. By December, I was more confused than ever and beginning to panic. 

Cabaret is not a concert of music.  Anyone can stand up and sing a song list. A Cabaret tells a story through the songs, woven together through short bits of patter (i.e. unsung, spoken words that tie the music together).  Sometimes patter is scripted, sometimes it's impromptu.  I was having trouble piecing together a story from the music of Piaf and Brel alone.  A show of either of them would be great, but combined, they are very different.  I met with DK's David Hochoy for some direction.

"Do whatever you want," he said. "It doesn't even have to be French! Just make it your own and sing what you love."  

While seemingly obvious and simple, his words unlocked my block. I went back through the scores of music I had now unearthed with any kind of French connection -- French composers, French movies, French musicals, music in French, music, movies, television and musicals about Paris or with any French tie. 

I picked my favorites and a good mixture of uptempo and slower ballads, including Brel and Piaf, of course, and began lining them up in what might be a show order.

But how to tie them together?  What's the story?  ... Check back next week!