New year, new blog. Same me. Different writer. Katie Siegel dutifully retired, and I was lucky enough to be handed down her position. Hi! My name is Sophie, and I will be continuing the #marketing tradition of writing this blog. No slander involved, just my words on a page telling you all about whatever show or special event I am telling you about. Luckily, someone was actually able to capture the moment I rolled away the decapitated head of my predecessor. When I said “retired” before, I actually meant death by guillotine. Marketing work can truly be relentless.
Let’s get down to business. We put on ten productions here throughout the year, and we like to give the people a little teaser—an inside look, if you will—before those shows open. Also, it’s an opportunity for the people who have been working on the show to give their piece about what that experience has been like. That’s where this blog comes in. For the next year, this blog will be a place where I, Sophie, tell you, Reader, all about the happenings of Cabaret Theatre. A little bit about myself before we start: like I said before, I’m Sophie, and this will be my Junior year of college. My theatrical resume includes performance credits in Cabaret’s Pippin and The Wild Party, I am the Social Media Chair of Cabaret Theatre, and, on the side, I am studying Nursing here at Rutgers. All great things, but still none of them as great as this revue, and that’s really what you are all here to read about anyway.
“This revue means a lot to me because as someone who has struggled with their own mental health, it’s refreshing to see the hardships portrayed accurately while also being comedic, heart-warming, and inspiring” - Alison Rydwin, Cast
Do you remember the feeling you felt when Disney Channel announced episodes like That’s So Suite Life of Hannah Montana or the first Nickelodeon trailer for iParty with Victorious came out? Well that is the kind of excitement I was feeling as I took my place in a red folding chair in the audience of Cabaret Theatre to watch the first run-through of Before the Breakdown: A Musical Revue. The Back-to-School revue is traditionally an opportunity for two of the student theatre companies on campus— Cabaret Theatre and The Livingston Theatre Company—to join forces in their own crossover episode to showcase the talent of their members and start their seasons off with a bang. Maybe none of you related to my opening analogy, and I was really too focused on simply trying to make a good first impression as the new writer, but truly there are a lot of things to look forward to when it comes to this production. And, for the record, I was completely blown away by this run-through.
I wanted to hear from Maya Mitterhoff and Mohsin Sharif, the co-authors of this revue, about what inspired them to tell this story and what the process was like putting all the pieces together.
Mohsin: “Working on Before the Breakdown has been one of the most rewarding and inspiring processes I have been a part of thus far at Cabaret. This story is extremely sensitive and personal, so it was quite nerve-wracking to hand it over to another group of artists (some of whom I had never met before). For both of us, it was important to show a story of reconciliation with ones pains, faults, and past. We didn’t want to shy away from the harsh truth of trauma, yet we wanted to leave an audience with a sense of hope – hope that despite the suffering, there can be a way through darkness if you search for light.”
Maya: “Before the Breakdown discusses the personal anxieties and societal obstacles that come with one's journey to self acceptance. Mohsin and I both struggle with this quite a bit, and wanted to create a piece of art that illuminated our own stories while giving others an opportunity to find themselves within the piece. We wanted to create a platform where people can relieve themselves of their baggage and unpack their demons, and learn that they are not alone in their struggles, and I could not be happier with how well that turned out, thanks in large part to the amazing cast and staff.”
The story that Maya and Mohsin created has certainly impacted those who have worked on this show. I asked my friend Jack Oliver, Assistant Director of the production, what this show meant to him:
“The reason why I find revues so special is because of the creative interpretation they encourage, and Before the Breakdown is certainly no exception. All these songs cover so many bases that one or more audience members are bound to have had experienced at one point, and the way they’re seamlessly weaved together is something that continues to amaze me every night I watch it.”
This show was not only special to those who have created and directed it, but the process has also been deeply meaningful to the entire cast.
Josh Rosenzweig told me “My favorite part about being in this show is the sheer openness the cast and production staff share with one another. Through these topics [highlighted throughout the revue], we have come together and allowed ourselves to become vulnerable with one another, completely free of judgment. And it’s so beautiful.”
Sabrina Dunn is a long time lover of Cabaret Theatre and the back-to-school revue. She said this about her experience: “With any revue when you come back from summer it feels like coming back home, but it’s just a little redecorated. It’s really nice to work with some familiar faces plus some new ones.”
Danielle Russel is one of those new faces Sabrina mentioned, she went from graduating High School to joining the cast of the revue and has some advice for people who may still be debating whether or not to join student theatre. “The friendships that I have made over these past couple months have been life changing. To someone interested in possibly joining Cabaret this year, I would say 100% do it.” — And I have to say, watching these freshmen perform on stage in their first college production is nothing short of awe-inspiring, I look forward to blogging about many of your faces (new & old) in the future.
The cast and production staff really said it better than I ever could, but I think the revue captures something really important about Cabaret. We all come from different places (mainly different towns in New Jersey), have different majors, are different ages and are in totally different places in our lives. But, when it comes to working on a production together, we find common ground and the rest seems to fade away. The environment of support that is cultivated while working on these projects never ceases to amaze me, and it’s clear that this cast has accomplished that big time. As I was watching this run through I literally forgot I had to go home and write this blog, or go to class in a few days (happy first day of classes everyone!) and everything else. That is the kind of magic theater has the capability to create. This show tackles many difficult topics, but in the words of Maya, “The beautiful thing about the themes of self acceptance, mental health, identity, and healing is that they are all deeply personal and deeply relatable,” and that is so very true. I encourage you to come find yourself embedded within this story and get lost in the amazing production that is Before the Breakdown.
Before the Breakdown: A Musical Revue opens this Friday September the 6th at 8pm, and also shows Sept 7th at 8pm and Sept 8th at 7pm.
Tickets are available for purchase at the door starting an hour prior to showtime at the Cabaret Theatre Box Office.
For more information visit our Facebook event page:
Photos courtesy of John Hennessey