Last night I had the opportunity to perform in my very first cabaret -- a night where you select songs and devise witty banter in between. The video of the performance will be available next week and on their website, and it will find its way here, rest assured!
I selected the following for my performance (and performed them in the following order):
"The Physician" from Nymph Errant
"As We Stumble Along" fromThe Drowsy Chaperone
"Living In The Shadows" from Victor/Victoria
"Whispering" form Spring Awakening
Regarding this, "witty banter" between songs, I had a trial run in my apartment where I recorded myself singing and pretty much "word vomiting" in between to explore what themes connect the songs. Think of this as my "first draft" for the performance. (Once I transfer thost fun recordings from my cell phone to my fancy Ma
cBook Air I will provide a few of them here for your listening pleasure!)
Two weeks later I put these ideas to paper. And the night of my cabaret, of the 800+ words I wrote, I probably (QUICK SIDE NOTE: I'M IN STARBUCKS WRITING THIS BLOG AND A WOMAN, A STRANGER, CHERYL, JUST "PAID IT FORWARD" AND BOUGHT ME A VANILLA BEAN SCONE! The world is a good place every now and then, but back to the blog.) said 50 of them. Regardless, the exercise was a good one. However, I still want to share what my original thoughts were regarding these four songs, and when I receive a video of the evening, we will compare/contrast my planned words versus my "in the moment" words. Who knows, maybe I said more than I remembered!
So now, without further ado, a peek into the brain of Jen Jaynes:
New Voices Cabaret Script
Thank you very much to everyone for coming out tonight! The piece you just heard is quite the find. Can anyone name the composer or show it’s from? It’s from Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant! A crazy show from 1933 (yet it didn’t make its way to the US until the 1980s), about an English woman intent upon losing her virginity, and it was actually Cole Porter’s favorite musical he wrote due to its sexual sophistication. I first came across that number when a friend of mine brought me to “A Tribute To Cole Porter” at Wolf Trap Farm Park in Virginia, and I heard a woman perform this song. I was immediately intrigued and determined to find it! And I did, and much to my surprise when I downloaded the latest version, there are even more verses than I knew. But of all of those verses, my favorite lyric is “Yet he refused when he fixed up the rest of me to cure that ache in my heart.” The songs I chose these evening all grapple with the intersecting of the unknown and love, and how life is a rather funny journey. So the question we must ask ourselves is, “How do we handle this unknown? What options do we have?”
Well this next number provides one option that we have. That we can … stumble through life if we so choose. The Man In Chair from the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, describes this song as “a rousing anthem” by Beatrice Stockwell, a fictional infamous performer of the 1920s stage akin to the real-life actress, Tallulah Bankhead (Interested in more information of this woman? Google 1920s + actress + cocaine. She will be the first hit.). I had the pleasure of performing this show while at Villanova, and someday I would love to revive the character, especially when I’m the actual age that she is. (Grab drink) Imagine this is a gimlet.
Whew! That was exciting. Fun fact, while my dad was in attendance at the show now over a year ago, he actually stood up in the audience and hooted and hollered, which was fantastic because that is exactly what I imagined Beatrice Stockwell experiencing at the end of her song. I also envisioned a giant American flag falling behind me and confetti cannons! But! Moving right along.
This next piece, Living In The Shadows is from the first musical that I had a lead role in. Picture it. Me, a freshman at the University of Virginia, auditioning for the First Year Players, (the same group that Tina Fey was a part of when she attended UVA.) I audition for Victor/Victoria, a musical (pretty much written for Julie Andrews), in which a woman pretends to be a man pretending to be a woman, aka, the most convincing female impersonator ever, and low and behold, I get the title role of Victoria Grant aka Victor Grazinski, a Polish Count making his living as a female impersonator in France! I even chopped off all of my hair for the role. That’s how dedicated I was. My mom cried when she first saw me with my hair slicked back. But I reassured her, it’s just hair, and it grows back.
This particular song, however, even though written to be performed by Victoria Grant, I did not get to perform in the show because it was given to another actor (and rightly so, it’s a school production and they want to spread the wealth, I get it, I direct school shows now and understand these politics all too well). So now we venture into what it is like Living In the Shadows. Beatrice Stockwell dealt with the unknown by drinking and stumbling through it, and here Victoria Grant questions what the repercussions are if we do stay in the shadows and just stumble through life.
LIVING IN THE SHADOWS
My final number for this evening is from the musical Spring Awakening, which is based on a fantastic German play written in the 1890s by Franz Wedekind, and contains the subtitle, The Tragedy of Childhood. It grapples with the same problems and questions that the three previous songs do: love and the unknown. When Victoria Grant says “Living in shadows, you’ll never find out,” Wendla Bergman, who sings this next song, takes this advice.
Wendla is living in a world constantly in shadow of the unknown about intimate relationships, and it is because this shadow exists, that she makes the choices she makes. When I first heard almost ten years ago that Duncan Sheik, the guy who wrote one of my favorite songs, “I Am Barely Breathing” was working on a musical based on a 1890s German play that was banned due to its “taboo” content, I was totally on board.
And since I am too old to play Wendla at this point, I wanted to use this evening as an opportunity to perform her amazing song. With that being said, please enjoy Whispering, from Spring Awakening, and thank you to all of my family and friends for supporting me this evening.