Life is a Cabaret, or: A Word or Two About the Open Mic

(via Nick Baines)
The Inspiration.
As announced recently, our theme for the open mic this semester is Cabaret Night.  For those unaware of what it a cabaret entails, it is a combination of song, dance, comedy and theatre.  I don't exactly remember how the conversation between events manager Malvina and I started, but it somehow led to us talking about the height of the jazz era in the 20s and 30s, Europe and nightclubs like the Moulin Rouge.  Thus, another Olivetree open mic was born.

Often, what pops into people's minds at the mention of cabaret is the 1972 Oscar-winning film of the same name, starring Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles.  The film, directed and choreographed by legend Bob Fosse, takes place in pre-WWII Berlin, and was a great starting point for the open mic.  Many will remember us exploring this time period before at our Prohibition-Era/"Gatsby" open mic back in 2009 (where I even dressed up as that international "zensation" Sally Bowles), but this semester sees us drawing inspiration from the arts culture in Europe at the time, particularly that of Weimar Culture in Germany.  The Weimar Republic, which occurred between WWI and the rise of Hitler in the '30s, was a time in German society in which the arts and sciences greatly flourished.  Among some noteable figures during this era include Dada artist Hannah Höch, Expressionist artist Max Beckmann, influential theatre director and dramatist Bertolt Brecht, and philosopher Martin Heidegger.  

(Second Stage Theatre's recent production of musical play The Blue Flower, featuring artists Höch and Beckmann, was also an inspiration focal point)

While I'm definitely looking to the Weimar-era cabarets for inspiration, attendees of our open mic are not limited to this particular time period as a point of reference.  The tradition of cabarets, after all, dates from the 1880s in France, all the way to the '60s here in America.  Another variation to draw inspiration from is the vaudeville tradition, which also combines song and dance styles with theatre, and usually takes shows to different venues.  Vaudeville also included elements of burlesque and freakshows/side-shows.

The Look.
Many have been coming up to me, asking how to dress for the event.  Well, don't fear, dear Olivetree readers and hopeful attendees -- here's a quick guide to how you can get your chance in the spotlight, and look good doing it:

For women, I'm all about the menswear (Think: Marlene Dietrich).  If you're uncomfortable in dresses or just completely over wearing yet another flapper dress, I suggest going with lots of vests and blazers along with shorts and tights.  Maybe throw in some ruffles, tassles, feathers and heels for an extra, feminine flourish.  Or, if you'd like go for something a little more gender-bending and androgynous, try a pair of high waisted slacks and Oxford shirt, complete with suspenders and a top hat.

However, if you're going with a dressier look: a simple drop-waist, knee length with fringe would do, though if you're feeling extra adventurous, I'd also suggest playing with silhouettes and anachronistic elements.  Wear circle skirts with lots of crinoline, paired with combat boots.  In terms of makeup, the more dramatic, the better!  You can go with a bold lip, such as in red, plum or fuschia, or put on some falsies to accentuate your lashes.  Anything goes, but don't forget the rouge!

The same goes for the guys: you can go with the classic, tailored jacket and slacks (with bowtie, of course, 'cause bowties are cool) -- or, if you want a more bohemian, "literary intelligentsia" look, a tweed jacket and some slacks (men in this era usually wore their pants high at the waist, but if you think you'd feel uncomfortable, you don't have to do so). I'd also suggest slicking your hair back in a center or side part.  If you so feel inclined, you can even grow a moustache!  (Think: F. Scott Fitzgerald at the height of his heyday as an ex-pat living in Paris.)

While it is definitely encouraged, I do want to stress that you don't have to be dressed up in order to attend our event.  After all, we're here to put on a great show, so come one and come all! 


Cabaret Night
November 30, 2011
7-11pm, TH 105
Hunter & Non-Hunter students welcome

If you're interested in performing, or have further questions regarding the event, 
stop by our office at TH 212.

-Jess, Publicity Manager