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Willkommen! JR Theater brings ‘Cabaret’ to Black Box

REHEARSING+IN+STYLE+-+Adrian+Belmonte+strikes+a+pose+with+the+Kit+Kat+Girls.+The+cast+rehearses+the+musical+%E2%80%9CCabaret%E2%80%9D+that+is+set+to+go+on+in+late+May.
Eli schwartz
REHEARSING IN STYLE – Adrian Belmonte strikes a pose with the Kit Kat Girls. The cast rehearses the musical “Cabaret” that is set to go on in late May.

Preparations for Jackson-Reed’s ‘Cabaret’ are well underway. The musical will open May 16, with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday over two weekends. The show will explore life in the 1930s Berlin with world events that will immediately follow, namely the rise of the Hitler, the Holocaust, and World War II. 

The show follows Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer in Berlin. There, his life revolves around the Kit Kat Klub, a cabaret theater, and the complicated lives of those he meets as the Nazi Party rises to prominence.

While the show opens in May, preparations have been underway for some time. “We started prepping with the cast…around the end of February, but we’ve been preparing for this since July,” Director Daniel Iwaniec said. Reading scripts and designing sets and costumes have been a part of this long period of planning.

For the crew, preparations have ramping up as the show has approached.

“Leading up to the show, I’m probably putting in 15 to 20 hours a week just focused on the sound system,” said Lead Sound Engineer Wesley Hoy, explaining how rehearsals tend to get lengthy closer to performance time.

“A lot of dedication in a lot of different areas [is needed],” continued Iwaniec. “If you’re in the cast, you come to rehearsals and learn your lines, learn your blocking, learn your music. It’s the same way if you’re with the orchestra… Design-wise or if you’re working in the technical field, you have to be sitting down and trying to figure out the problems before they happen and what’s the best way to assist the storytelling on stage.”

Adding to the hassle is the fact that this year’s production, like last year’s show Into the Woods, will be performed in the Black Box Theater because of the closure of the auditorium. However, some effects of this situation have been positive.

Performing in the much smaller, intimate Black Box gives actors a way to express themselves in ways they haven’t been able to in larger spaces.

STRIKE A POSE – Cast members of “Cabaret” go over a dance number during rehearsal. The musical will take place in the Black Box during the last two weekends in May.

You really can get up close to the audience in a way you can’t in the auditorium, which I think helps my performance as an actor, because you can really see their reactions,” said August Taylor, who plays the smuggler Ernst Ludwig in ‘Cabaret.’

“When you’re on a big stage like that, you look down at the audience, and you really only see a lot of black because the lights on you are so bright. But when you can see the way people are reacting to your performance, it gives you a lot more life in the scene and you can work off what they’re doing, and it makes that easier.”

Still, its small size can also be a drawback.“If we sold out the auditorium one night, I’d have to sell out this room seven times over in order to get the same amount of people to see it,” Iwaniec remarked. “I’d have to do four or five weeks of the show to make up for what we can do in the auditorium over two weekends.” This means a lot more hard work and dedication are needed in a limited time, especially with the busy schedules of many high schoolers.

As a self-funded program, all money the theater program receives comes from ticket sales, meaning the reduced capacity has a widespread effect on the running of the program itself.

Nevertheless, there is a huge sense of excitement around ‘Cabaret,’ even if the first show is a little more than a month away.

“I think it’s a really fun show. We often think about the past as being really conservative and old-fashioned, and I think one thing that we can see from this show is how similar things were like back then and how progressive they were,” said Iwaniec.

As the show revolves around an intense, historical event that we have a deep connection to, even ninety years later, there will be a wide range of emotions expressed. “There’s going to be moments of the show where the audience feels the tension,” Taylor said. “There are going to be moments where it’s going to be pretty dark.”

The challenge will be for a cast full of high schoolers to pull off the show effectively.

“It’s going to be tough for an ensemble of peers to put [the mix of emotions] together in a way to make it meaningful and accurate and powerful for the audience.” Taylor continued, “It’s been nice to see a lot of sophomores and freshmen getting into theater altogether because as a senior, I’ll not be around next year, so it’s kind of on them to keep the program going in that way, which is kind of cool.” 

Performances run May 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, and 25, and tickets can be bought at jackson-reed-theater-ptso.square.site.

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About the Contributor
Eli schwartz, Assistant Director of Art and Design
  • 2022-23: Senior Photo Editor
  • 2023-24: Assistant Director of Art and Design
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