‘Cabaret Paresky’ lacks variety

Take 12 random people with different talents and put them in a room, and you have a jury. Take a few more and put them on stage, and what do you get? A cabaret.

Last Thursday, Campus Life sponsored the first ever Cabaret Paresky— an open-mic night of sorts in Baxter Hall. Arif Smith, Campus Life coordinator, called the night an “experiment in casual theatre,” and for an hour and a half, any poor souls expecting to wait in a long Snack Bar line were instead entertained by their peers performing.

Original poetry filled the night, including several readings by students in the Jazz and Poetry Workshop. But what made the cabaret particularly interesting was the variety of the other participants. Diana Mantilla, a guest artist who has worked with Kusika and Sankofa in the past, performed two different dances over the course of the night, the first being a Gypsy dance and the second a Flamenco dance. Other notable performances included Andrew Dominitz ’11 as “The Human Beatbox,” MC Rousseau Mieze’s rap about love and a hilarious rendition of the innuendo-laden song “Let’s Duet” from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story performed by Sidhant Mehra ’10 and Nick Herzik ’10.

The most stirring act of the night was a combination of song and poetry in tribute to Donny Hathaway, opening with a dynamic poem performed by Hari Ramesh ’11 and Mo Lotif ’11 in a conversational style. Then the tribute band, featuring lead singer Lars Ojukwu ’08, filled the hall with a smooth sound that made it feel more like an actual cabaret than a stage in Paresky.

The night ended with Ritmo Latino’s Tambor, a group dance that embodied the spirit of the night. Not only was the audience clapping, but members were invited to participate in the dancing, and the line between audience member and performer was blurred as it should be during any night with an open stage.

While the cabaret seemed successful, with over 100 people in attendance (and probably more just passing through Paresky), I walked home at 12:30 a.m. that night confused about what I had been doing for the last hour and a half. While some of the performances were fun, others were very similar and just lost my interest. The fact that the majority of performances were from the Jazz and Poetry Workshop questions whether or not Cabaret Paresky really achieved what it had intended to accomplish.

Ideally, this sort of open stage event would have brought together different kinds of performances, but instead it was a night (albeit an enjoyable one) of mainly slam poetry and some music. With all the events organized by individual student groups that offer specialized programs (All Acoustic Alliance’s Coffee Houses, for example), Cabaret Paresky merely served as an outlet for those performers not previously represented.

Personally, I would like to see a second Cabaret Paresky, but with improved advertising in order to feature a greater array of performances. The question lies in whether something like Cabaret Paresky can get a better sampling of all different kinds of performances. Can the stage become even more open?

I think the real answer depends on whether or not students are willing to take the opportunity afforded by a stage and a microphone. Cabaret Paresky could be great if a lot of individuals or groups of individuals used it to showcase their talents. This could mean a stand-up routine, a short story reading, a monologue, a dance, a song or any other type of performance.

The idea of an open stage differentiates Cabaret Paresky from a traditional talent show because anyone can perform and should be encouraged to do so, even if he or she decides to participate in the middle of the performance. A greater variety of talents needs to take advantage of the opportunity this open stage affords.