Black Friday Comes Early with The 2018 Directors' Showcase

Look you guys. I take this blog very seriously. I want to do my best to report on Cabaret’s shows with utmost accuracy, and really get to the heart of the shows. With Directors’ Showcase, I quickly learned, the heart of the show is the directors. And since I have no sense of direction (one time I got lost in the stacks of Alexander Library for 45 minutes), I realized that my usual undercover method of reporting wouldn’t work for this show. I had to try something else to find out what Directors’ Showcase is all about.

Richard Urquiza and Vicki Kreindler in  Post-Its: Notes on a Marriage,  directed by Grace Hazen

Richard Urquiza and Vicki Kreindler in Post-Its: Notes on a Marriage, directed by Grace Hazen

First, I did some digging on the dark web (that’s what I call Facebook). Through some extensive research, I found that Directors’ Showcase is an event where first-time directors direct short plays.

Plays? Plural?

I looked again. Yup, that’s what it said. Five different plays. And what happened next, might shock you. I compared the ticket prices of this show to other Cabaret shows, and for Directors’ Showcase, the tickets are cheaper. Not only are we getting five plays, but for less than the price of one.

I was shook, shaken, and shocked. A classic three S’s situation. What kind of Black Friday shenanigans is this? This deal was definitely too good to be true. I realized I needed to dig deeper.

Posing as a “writer” writing for “a blog” (I am still an undercover investigator at heart), I confronted the five directors about the plays they’re directing, hoping to find out more about the enigma that is Directors’ Showcase.

Sabrina Caruso in  411 , directed by Jack Oliver

Sabrina Caruso in 411, directed by Jack Oliver

I first confronted Talya Shatzky, who is making her directorial debut with Directors’ Showcase. After I commented on this being her directorial debut, Talya pointed out that that’s kind of the point of this showcase. I told Talya, haha, I knew that, what do I look like, an undercover writer for a blog who doesn’t know what Directors’ Showcase is about? She said no, you don’t look like that at all. I was disappointed, to say the least, as I bought this deerstalker hat just for this occasion.

“What is your play about?” I asked her, shoving my deerstalker into my back pocket.

Double Date is about a man named Nick on a date with his current girlfriend Irene, a very driven and business minded woman who knows what she wants,” said Talya. “Throughout the date Nick has flashbacks to a relationship he had with a woman named Pennie, a woman who very much loved him but seemed stuck in her ways and did not, or could not, move forward in her life. It is a story about regret and the 'what ifs?' you ask in any relationship.

“I like the way this show plays with time and the concept of 'what could have been'. The alternation between Nick's relationship with Irene and then with Pennie shows how people evolve and grow in their lives, even though it is sometimes not in a forward momentum. A relationship that worked at one point in a person's life should not always be expected to work in every point of that person's life.”

Barnabé Bouchenoir and Paige Jarusiewicz in  Double Date , directed by Talya Shatzky

Barnabé Bouchenoir and Paige Jarusiewicz in Double Date, directed by Talya Shatzky

Okay, when I heard that Directors’ Showcase is doing 5 plays for less than the price of one, I expected some short little skits or something. Double Date sounds like a quality play. Paige Jarusiewicz, an actor in Double Date, confirms this, telling me that the play will be very relatable to audiences.

She added, “This has been an invaluable experience for me in terms of meeting and collaborating with new people in the theatre community. It’s also been great to work with people of all different theatre backgrounds/experiences, and it’s an honor to have been cast in Talya’s directorial debut.”

“I think audiences will definitely relate to this play because it deals heavily with regret and retrospect (which are huge parts of the human experience, as we’re imperfect creatures).”
-Paige Jarusiewicz, Pennie in Double Date

I needed to look further to see if the other plays sounded just as good.

I went to Jack Oliver next to hear about his play.

“I'm directing the play 411,” he said. “The show is about a Caller making a phone call to an Operator in hopes of finding the address of a psychiatrist for his wife, and how the conversation slowly devolves into the two venting about the complications of their respective lives.

“The play is seamlessly funny, and both characters have so much depth to them despite the runtime being so short. I honestly think audiences will really enjoy the show. It does get dark at some times, but I found it really easy to get attached to both of these characters, largely in part to how well Ryan and Sabrina are doing in portraying them.”

Another solid-sounding play. I was slowly realizing just how good this actually is. Did Cabaret know what a deal it was giving with this showcase? Are the rest of the plays just as quality? I interviewed the remaining three directors, and, lo and behold, they are.

Grace Hazen told me: “Post-Its: Notes on a Marriage is about a couple recounting the highs and lows of their life together as told through the Post-It notes they wrote each other. It's a relationship in retrospect wherein the audience learns of both the incredible joy and immense pain these two people experience together.

“I love how intimate this play is. Although the notes are short, they still reveal so much about this couple's life. The notes are their special form of communication. It's this couple's ‘thing’ that they do throughout their entire relationship and, by using them to tell their story, the audience is let into their life via their most personal tradition.”

“I hope everyone who is married, or has been married, in the audience finds the show highly relatable, and that those who haven't, find it wholesomely endearing.”
-Vicki Kreindler, Actress in Post-Its: Notes on a Marriage

Andres Moledo, Nicholas Efstatos, and John Lerman in  The Candymen , directed by Zach Hassel

Andres Moledo, Nicholas Efstatos, and John Lerman in The Candymen, directed by Zach Hassel

As Zach Hassel and Kyle Higgins talked to me about their plays, I observed how different all of the plays are from one another, and yet how enjoyable they all are in their own ways. Zach describes his play, The Candymen, which was written by two of his friends from high school, as “zany and goofy,” while Kyle Higgins talks about the oddness and absurdity of his play, Buyer’s Market.

“I think audiences can look forward to having a good laugh at the end of the night with this show,” said Zach.

I asked Kyle how directing a play for Directors’ Showcase has been for him.

“This experience has not just been incredibly fun, but also incredibly insightful!” he told me. “For the first time, I really got to see what someone goes through when they have to direct a show. It is stressful to say the least, but incredibly rewarding!”

“What I love about this showcase is that it is made up of five distinct shows that each tell such a unique story. As an audience member, you get to experience five different stories all in one night!”
-Emily Prestby, Directors’ Showcase Coordinator

Finally realizing that I needed to see this for myself, I snuck into a tech rehearsal of Directors’ Showcase. Sure, some eyewitnesses may say I “loudly introduced myself” and “tripped and knocked over half of the chairs in the audience upon arrival,” but I feel I was very subtle in my undercover sleuthing.

My big question was: are these short plays just as good as everyone is saying they are?

My answer: Yes. Yes, and more.

Richard Urquiza and Jade Chandler in  Buyer’s Market , directed by Kyle Higgins

Richard Urquiza and Jade Chandler in Buyer’s Market, directed by Kyle Higgins

“I have no words to describe this experience other than incredible,” said Grace Hazen. “I got to work with a talented cast on a beautiful show alongside four fantastic directors.”

You know, when I heard that Directors’ Showcase was directed by a bunch of new directors, I was wary. I didn’t know what kind of plays I was signing up to see. But I didn’t realize how great an opportunity like Directors’ Showcase can be for new directors to not just learn and grow, but to direct great plays in the process. And that’s exactly what they did.

“Director's Showcase is one of the best opportunities Cabaret Theatre has to offer,” said Jack Oliver, “and I mean that with full sincerity. I perhaps may have never decided to take up directing had this process not existed. Allowing students a ‘trial run’ type thing with directing is so important, because the job of directing is so daunting at first glance. But being able to work my way through a short play and discover different methods of directing has shown me that I do have the ability to direct and has left me desiring to take the helm of even bigger shows in the future.”

All five of these directors definitely have a bright future in directing, but for now, some see their spectacular debuts. The 2018 Directors’ Showcase runs this weekend, November 16th at 8pm, November 17th at 8pm, and November 18th at 7pm, at Cabaret Theatre.


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Photography by Steph Bradli