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An inside look at Lawrence International’s cabaret

Rachel Young

(Photo by Paul Wilke.)

The Lawrence University community, both domestic and international alike, celebrated another year of Cabaret last Sunday, April 15. Held this year in the chapel, there is no doubt that Cabaret showcases the hard work, dedication and talent of the Lawrence University student body.

As performers sang, danced and played music to a full house, it was certainly evident that the show wasn’t lacking in entertainment value. However, for many Lawrentians, especially those who participate in the planning process of Cabaret, the show is much more than a vehicle to provide Lawrentians and the greater Fox Valley community with an afternoon of music and laughter.

After all, what does Cabaret really mean to the Lawrence community? At a school where the availability of live performances is a part of our daily schedules, what is it that makes Cabaret unique?

“The purpose of Cabaret is not just to show students different cultures, but to immerse students in different cultures” said Geneva Wrona, an LU senior and one of this year’s Cabaret emcees. “There is rarely a song or dance that is performed by students from only one country or culture.”

Senior Lauren Mimms, who participated in the Ethiopian dance piece, “Dances from the Thirteenth Month of Sunshine” agreed, “I think Cabaret is really important to Lawrence because it gives students an opportunity to experience a taste of some of the various cultures represented in our international community. It also gives all students on campus the chance to participate… the show really opens campus to the world and strengthens the connection between the international community and the rest of the student body.”

Lawrence International board president Aimen Khan reaffirmed this statement during his introduction to the show, announcing to the audience that over half of the students participating in the various performances were actually not international students.

 Judging by the responses from both Cabaret participants and audience members alike, Cabaret seems to provide a unique opportunity for all students to enter into a new environment where they can experiment with performing in a totally new medium, as well as absorbing the cultural knowledge required to create a truly authentic performance.

“I learned a few Ethiopian dances without any prior knowledge of the culture,” said Mimms. “In the end, I had learned a lot about Ethiopia through learning the dances.”

Throughout all of the hard work, even in light of pre-show evening practices that could last up to three hours, both Wrona and Mimms affirmed that the process of preparing for Cabaret is just as significant to the Lawrence community as the show itself.

Said Wrona, “I became really close to the people I worked with during the process of organizing the show. It is so rewarding to work so hard, be so busy, but in the end feel like it was a successful show. People I don’t know congratulated me on my performance after Cabaret! I am so glad I had the opportunity to be an emcee before I graduated.”

“I wish that I hadn’t waited until my senior year to participate because it was such a great experience,” said Mimms. “I think everyone on campus should participate in the show at some point during their Lawrence career.”

 Perhaps, then, what makes Cabaret special, is not the actual performance itself, but the process of preparing for the show, and the unique manner in which it brings students from many different backgrounds together to celebrate a joyous cultural exhibition with which they may be intimately familiar or, contrarily, know absolutely nothing about.

 

Lawrence students pride themselves on being open minded, creative, hardworking individuals, but in a small community such as ours, it can be difficult to break out of that comfort zone and meet other students with diverse interests and skills. Cabaret allows Lawrentians to do just that, providing a medium for performers to explore music and culture in a totally safe, non-judgmental environment.

 

Alfredo Duque, who performed in three Cabaret numbers Sunday, perhaps captured the spirit of Cabaret best with his statement, “I just dance because I love to dance, not because I’m necessarily worried about performing.”

 

By coming together and allowing this passion to drive them, Lawrentians together create the unique Appleton, Wisc. ‘immersion’ experience that is Cabaret.