Extending her arms in welcome, theater studies professor Deb Margolin said “Good evening, and welcome to the Theater of Desire Cabaret.”
In the ballroom of 220 York St., she greeted a small but eager group of drama students and other undergrads. Nobody knew what to expect because there was no program. There was only a stage ready for the taking.
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Staged last night for the first time since 2004, the Theater of Desire Cabaret is a dramatic open mic, a two hour block of time during which anyone is welcome to share songs, sketches, plays-in-progress, monologues or any other form of creative expression. An earlier incarnation of the Cabaret disintegrated three years ago when students and professors took on other commitments, said Clare Barron ’08, who co-coordinated yesterday’s event. Barron, Margolin and Eyad Houssami ’07 have re-instated the cabaret as a bi-weekly event to foster creativity and experimentation in the theater community.
“Here we invite new material and new urges,” Margolin said. “If you always tried out for Juliet and they always gave you the Nurse, you can be Juliet here. There are no critics — the only criterion is desire.”
The open-mindedness that pervades the cabaret’s atmosphere is essential to the spirit of the event, Barron said.
“We want to create a space where we can test new ideas, push the boundaries of performance,” Barron said. “The cabaret is a place where you can perform whatever is on your mind, or on your heart.”
The free-form and intimate nature of evening was exhilarating for most of the audience members and participants, but some would like to see greater attendance at the next event.
“It was exciting, titillating and stimulating,” Meg Fitzpatrick ’10. “Still, it would be great if more people came next time.”
The experimental atmosphere was unlike the highly polished productions that dominate Yale theater life. Barron said the cabaret not only enriches her theater experience but also serves as a release from the strains of traditional theater.
“For me it’s centering,” she said. “A free space like the Cabaret is an important complement to Yale’s theater community.”
This spirit creates an atmosphere akin to that of a late-night jam session. The large, open ballroom embodies the unstructured, democratic feeling of the evening. Margolin began the evening with the opening of a show on which she is currently working.
“To call it close to completion would give it too much credit,” she warned the audience. “In fact, I might have to use the script.”
Her brief monologue about being anesthetized before going into surgery was followed by Adam Horowitz ’09, Alex Borinsky ’08 and Charles Gariepy ’09, who performed a piece incorporating prerecorded voices, a ukulele and an alliterative song sung by wizards. Once their performance was over, they admitted to having written it the night before.
The freedom permitted by the event also results in a welcome spontaneity during the show. Before the cabaret, Houssami couldn’t decide between two monologues — one he had written and one from “Waiting for Godot.” He chose his own, a humorous monologue in which he speaks from the perspective of an Arab female jet-setter.
“You’ll have to imagine me doing this in a burka,” he told a sympathetic audience.
Other performances included a Sylvia Plath recitation, original poems and a performance of the song “More Than Words” by ’80s hairspray rockers Extreme.
The next Theater of Desire will take place in the ballroom at 220 York St. on Monday, April 2.