Sunday, February 20, 2011

My First Cabaret


I got to perform live once again, in front of an audience this past Wednesday night. We had reached the culmination of our second session in the Performers' Workshop: our cabaret acts. It was a session I truly enjoyed since I'm always making up new lyrics for well known songs, just for the fun of it (too much free time inside my head, perhaps). For our class assignments we were asked to journal about our current lives, to recognize and choose the recurring themes, and then write original lyrics to songs from musicals.

And to sing about it in public!

My classmates are talented and seasoned performers. It was interesting to hear more than one of them talk about how nervous they felt, having to exploit and expose their own lives and personalities. The recurring theme among the different singers was that it was much harder to perform as yourself than it is to hide in or behind a character, whether as part of the chorus or in a leading role.

I relished it. Call it the narcissist in me, but I rather enjoyed the process of choosing what to talk, write, and sing about. Plus, I'm always jonesin' for attention (why do you think I blog?). Not that I wasn't nervous, but I was also on a high all day Wednesday, before the performance, and even the day before. I relished the anticipation of performing live again, getting the chance to sing and even tap dance a little for an audience.

I talked and sang about getting fired from the Character department at Disneyland, my dependency on caffeine, and the desire to still have and do it all, both the day job and more performing gigs, despite my waning youth and energy.

I was the last to go on stage in an evening featuring ten singers. The singer before me was a woman I came to adore as a classmate and friend very quickly. She had honed her own cabaret style and act for several years in Chicago before coming out to Los Angeles. As a performer, she understands the importance of balancing the brassy and bawdy with heart wrenching ballads, the light with the dark.

So, it was easy to see why her act was saved for almost the end. I should have felt intimidated, having to follow someone such as her. Instead, I was flattered that I was chosen to go last.

It was a long evening. The audience was friendly and enthusiastic, at first. By the time we got to the second-to-last act, the energy in the room felt subdued as I watched my friend sing flawlessly on stage.

It was a one night only performance, and we were sold out. So what if the energy had died in the room? This was my one shot for this particular and personal show, and it's been a while since I last performed, so I was determined to make the most of it.

I didn't wow and delight the audience with every facet of my ten minute act, as I had hoped. But I got a couple of genuine laughs, including when I ad libbed the line, "I'm not into that" when I talked about being tickled while working in costume at Disneyland.

I am grateful for the experience, grateful for the learning gleaned from the creative process. Would I be willing to perform in future cabarets? I hope I get the opportunity. Would I be willing to write new material? Certainly.

But for now I'm glad it's over. I need a break. As I had joked to the audience in the act, "Grandpa's tired!" As grateful as I am to enjoy the luxury of being myself, it can be exhausting!

6 comments:

golfwidow said...

I would have bought tickets for that.

KK said...

I wish I could've seen that! Sounds like you had a great time and in the end, isn't that what it's all about?

Peter Varvel said...

GW, I would have given you comp tickets for that!

KK, yes! And the memories will last for a lifetime - as you and I can attest. :)

Lori said...

There is an amazing karaoke bar up here that plays live music (complete w/ back up singers) while you sing your song. Every time I go I think, "I wish Peter were here. He'd love this!"

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

What was the name of your Disney character-firing song?

"I Gotta Be Smee"
"Fart Me Up"
"Canned Canned"

The list goes on ...

Peter Varvel said...

Lori, omg, you and I would rock the house! . . . or just plain annoy people. ;)

Chris, I could have used your collaboration skills on rewriting the new lyrics! You should take the workshop (feel like driving all the way out to North Hollywood every week?)