by Rose Bostwick
The spotlight will shine down on 72 performers, each singing, dancing or acting in a showcase of the new talent Theatre Ink has to offer. Freshman Cabaret, North’s annual all-inclusive and freshman-only cabaret show, will be unveiled Dec. 17, complete with complicated songs, choreographed dance numbers, and amusing skits. This year, freshmen will impress audiences with their show, “I Got You.” However, before the performance can happen, there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes.
Chosen through a lengthy application process, the show’s student directors, sophomores Clare Donohoe, Nora Geffen, Emma Richmond, and Rachel Stoia wrote original acts, transposed music, and choreographed dances over the summer to prepare for the show.
“Last year, all four of us had a really great time being in Freshman Cabaret, which we really owe to our four directors,” said Geffen, a singing director along with Stoia. “We wanted to help the next class have a really good time as well.”
Last spring, multiple groups applied to student direct this year’s Freshman Cabaret. The candidates were in charge of selecting a theme as well as skits, songs, and dances, and were encouraged prior to being chosen to plan to incorporate diversity in recruitment and to build unity with their casts.
To be chosen, directors were required to have prior theatrical experience, have good academic standing, participate in team directing interviews, and be able to attend weekly production meetings before and during the show’s rehearsal process.
Stoia explained that she wanted to direct Freshman Cabaret because “it eases you into the theatre program, so you can learn the ropes of Theatre Ink,” she said. “Even if you don’t know for sure that you want to do theatre, it’s a really good introduction to the program and to North in general.”
As well as teaching the basics of North’s theatre program, Freshman Cabaret helps freshmen develop their talent because it is an all-inclusive performance. Students who may have never been on stage before are given equal opportunity as those who have been performing their whole lives, because everyone who auditions is cast to act, sing, or dance.
“Freshman Cabaret is just a really interesting and unique show,” said Stoia. “Since everyone gets in, you can see all the different experience levels and all the different sorts of talents that the new class has to offer. Everyone is in an equal place, so it’s a no-judgement zone.”
Richmond had a similar opinion. “No one is the star, so everyone gets a chance; all freshmen get into it and it is our showcase of the new talent that Theatre Ink has to offer,” she said. “It’s a great way for freshmen to get involved.”
Although there are many benefits to having an all-inclusive cast, sometimes having a large cast can be difficult. Freshman Cabaret has the largest cast of any Theatre Ink production, and with 72 freshmen participating this year, the show is slightly larger than it has been in the past, according to Richmond.
According to sophomore Gabriella Matos, a stage manager, running the auditions in the allotted two-day period was “a challenge. We need to get everyone auditioned within two days, and it doesn’t matter how many people sign up, so the auditions went on for many hours,” Matos said. “It’s difficult to make the show larger as more people join.”
At auditions, freshmen signed in, posed for their headshots so the directors could identify them while casting, then, depending on whether they were acting or singing or both, performed a monologue, song, or both for the directors.
Although the auditioning process was lengthy, directors, stage managers, and faculty advisors worked to create a relaxing, laid-back environment to create a welcoming space for freshman, according to Richmond.
Even so, freshman Ava Waters, who now sings and acts in the show “tensed up” during the audition even though “it was a really chill and opening environment. I got really nervous right before, but afterwards it was all fine,” she said.
After auditions, directors held callbacks, or second auditions for some actors, singers, or dancers selected by directors. At callbacks, selected freshman read specific parts of scenes and sang songs to give directors a better idea of how to cast the show.
Dance auditions were held in a slightly different way. Prior to auditioning, freshman indicated whether they would like to be a part of a contemporary, hip hop, or jazz dance, or any combination.
“In the audition I taught them 2-4 counts of each style regardless of what style they wanted to participate in,” said Donohoe, dance director. In callbacks, “everyone who wanted to be a featured dancer, who perform in the finale, dance in the girls’ song, and help choreograph the beginning of the contemporary dance, got a callback.”
At dance callbacks, featured dancer candidates helped choreograph the beginning of the contemporary dance.
[divider]Behind the Scenes[/divider]
While Freshman Cabaret traditionally has no set design and simple costumes—this year’s costumes are all black clothing with a pop of color—there is still much work to do off the stage.
There are many people in addition to the directors who help produce the show, including advisors Jamie Alberts and Lisa Goldthwaite, sophomore Maggie Quigley, who runs the sound table, the stage management team, sophomore Max Huntington, who runs the lights for the show, and many more.
According to Huntington, Freshman Cabaret has minimal lights, but he will work with directors to decide what colors to use in each particular skit, song, or dance.
Lights are an important part of every production, according to Huntington. “If there weren’t lights, people wouldn’t be seen,” Huntington said. “We could use normal fluorescent lights, but they look pretty stark and jarring on most people.”
Another important group who helps produce the show is the stage management team, consisting of Matos and sophomores Sophie Chalfin-Jacobs and Maddie Mehrez, who coordinate schedules and room assignments, lead production meetings, communicate with faculty, and attend rehearsals to assist directors and help the process run smoothly.
“My stage manager, Maddie, helps me out so much with my vision and organizing everything,” said Donohoe.
According to Chalfin-Jacobs, the role of the stage managers is “to communicate with everyone involved in the show and to produce on stage the artistic visions of the directors.”
“Freshman Cabaret is all about meeting new people and making new friends, and acting in it last year was an amazing experience,” said Chalfin-Jacobs. “The highlight of stage managing for me is taking my positive experience and sharing it with this year’s cast.”
A typical acting, dancing, or singing rehearsal begins with cast members describing their highs and lows of the day and then doing a vocal warm-up for singing, a physical warm-up for acting, or a stretching or strengthening warm-up for dance.
According to Donohoe, a typical dance rehearsal is one hour long and consists of freshman learning the choreography, then “cleaning the dance and working on the whole feeling of the dance.” Finally, she films the performance “so the dancers can practice for next week.”
“Getting to know every one of the dancers and everyone’s stories has been so awesome,” Donohoe said. “Seeing all of the dance moves that have been in my head for the past several months in action and seeing how much fun everyone is having is so rewarding.”
Individual rehearsals consist of a small group of about two to five practicing an individual song, dance or skit. Full-cast rehearsals occur every Thursday and involve all 72 members of the cast.
According to freshman Rene Miller, who sings and acts in the show, a typical full-cast rehearsal consists of “singing, learning the full cast song, splitting into groups to harmonize, and learning the dance for the full cast number. It’s a lot of fun.”
Waters, who plays a sport in addition to Freshman Cabaret, also added that, although the directors make the show “easy to work around other schedules,” it still can sometimes be a struggle to manage every responsibility, but “it all works out at the end of the day.”
“It’s not like I can do everything,” said Waters. “Sometimes it’s a challenge to decide what rehearsals or practices I could miss and and to keep up with all my homework if rehearsals are long or if I have a game that’s far away.”
Freshman Nia Hyppolite, who sings in the production, added that being involved in the program sometimes involves “getting home late, having to do all this homework, and figuring out time to practice.” However, “that is mostly only one day a week, on Thursday full-cast rehearsals,” she said, adding that “once the directors give you a rehearsal slot they expect you to come back the next week with it either memorized or improved.”
“It’s hard work but it definitely pays off,” said Hyppolite. “You just have to practice a lot.”
Although it is sometimes difficult for everyone involved in the production to balance their workloads while putting the show together, “all of the directors and everyone working on the show really want to help and will help if it’s necessary,” according to freshman Nadya Obeid, who sings and acts in the show.
“My favorite part so far is just having fun.” Obeid said. “I wanted to get more involved in high school, and it’s a great way to meet new people with the same interests as you. I want to share my experience and spread the word that it’s going to be a great show.”