Category Archives: Cabaret

A lotta keeps

I had hoped this weekend’s Lotte Lenya Competition finals would provide some career-path clarity.  After all, standing up in front of a panel of judges and curious audience members twice in one day should shed a little bit of light on how it feels to be nurtured, appreciated, and scrutinized all at the same time–in a nutshell, how it feels to be a performing artist.  If it feels bad, then maybe it’s time to change directions.  If it feels good, then maybe it’s time to punch up the efforts and take advantage of the momentum.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple, and clarity rarely comes with want.

After the singing was over on Saturday night, the judges disappeared to continue the “lively discussion” they had started earlier in the day, promising to return with a list of winners.  The audience shuffled about, awaiting the results. The singers nervously chattered in the green room, awaiting the results.   A couple of shufflers walked by some chatterers and stopped.  “You,” the lady who showed up to Kilbourn Hall on a whim said to one of my colleagues, “you made me cry.  I have no idea why; it must have been something in the music, or what you did, but you made me cry.”  Bingo.  Job well done, dear contestant.

When the judges returned, the audience welcomed the 15 singer-actors with applause.  It was an applause filled with a similar kind of “You made me cry” affection.  Ah, I think we did our jobs, dear contestants.

After introductions, each of the three panel members said a few (and sometimes more) words.   Then more applause.  And in the end, everyone–audience, judges, directors, administrators, singers, accompanists–seemed to be singing, “there might be a box, but we’re not sure what it is, so don’t worry about fitting into it.  We like what you’re doing.  Keep working on it.  Keep expressing the music according to its style.  Keep expressing the drama that inspires the music.  Keep inspiring the music with the drama.  Keep letting the story come out of you and keep telling it.  Keep stirring our souls.  Keep us laughing.  Keep crying.  Keep us crying.  Keep sharing the excitement.  Yes, keep sharing.”

Inspiration came, mais hélas, clarity cameth not.  “Everyone has her own path,” Lisa Vroman (and thousands of people before her) affirmed.  Okay, great, but how do I get one and who’s going to give me the topo map?  I want a path, I want a path!

And then I looked back and saw it.  “Hey, there it is!” I thought.  I don’t suppose I know where it’s going, but I’ve been making one all this time, and I think I’ll keep on…

2010 Lotte Lenya Competition

The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve been so regularly surrounded by familiar faces in my life, that I haven’t often needed to rely on the kindness of strangers.  I say that as if it’s a good thing, which I do believe it is.  There is, however, something surprisingly wonderful about encountering helpful strangers.  Perhaps it’s simply because it’s just that, a surprise.

I spent the past couple of days in Rochester, NY rehearsing and performing for the Kurt Weill Foundation’s annual Lotte Lenya Competition.  It was a solo voyage to an unfamiliar city for an audition I was (and am) deeply invested in.  I was anxious.

In the middle of navigating the city and my nerves, I met a handful of people–men and women of all ages–who paused for a moment to reach out to me.  They gave me mini tours of the town, taught me new dance moves, chatted with me over a drink, took me to lunch, and even cheered me from the audience on the big day.

Combine my Kind Strangers with singing in Eastman’s regal Kilbourn Hall, and I think this past weekend might have changed my opinion of audition trips.  In fact, I might actually start looking forward to them…


The First Night countdown is skipping right along.  Yesterday, Henry and I rehearsed our music, Ryan and I took a tango lesson with Roxanne, and my musician friends who live upstairs gave their stamp of approval on my new dress.  It’s fancy.

Today, I’m sitting in the Symphony box office.  The glass doors allow me a great view of the falling snow, and Powell Hall is about as festive a place you can find this time of year.  Amidst the chatter of my fellow box officers and visiting patrons, I’m hearing the St. Louis Symphony rehearse its NYE concert (I won’t tell you what they’re playing, or who the special guest is.   It’s top secret.  Suffice it to say, I’m sad I’m missing the concert.)

Staring at the falling snow takes me back a couple of weeks to Berlin and the LaBarge family extravaganza.  We spent days walking around Berlin, where intermittent flakes regularly made the Christmas markets a dusty white.  And hearing our Symphony reminds me of the enthusiastic audiences at the Berlin Philharmonic.  I’ve never seen a group of concert goers celebrate music the way those Berliners did.  The applause for the Brahms Requiem continued long after the Atlanta Symphony Chorus members had closed their mouths, Donald Runnicles had lowered his baton, and the orchestra members had set down their instruments.

Yes indeed, now is a very good time to make and hear and applaud music.  Happy New Year!


I’ve talked to my singing friends, and we all agree that the time immediately preceding a show’s end is sometimes the most challenging.  The goal is to enjoy the production while it’s still in performances, but, oh, there’s that repetitive question, “what’s next?”  It’s the constant balance that I figure every freelancer seeks: arranging the next job while focusing on the current job.

So what is next for me after Unbeatable! closes this Saturday?  Auditions, of course.  Thankfully, there are a few other things on the horizon.  I spent this afternoon working on my French cabaret set for Grand Center’s First Night.   Henry Palkes has agreed to collaborate with me, which means I am a very lucky girl.   After listening to Hugh Macdonald’s lecture on singing and translation a couple of days ago, I’m motivated to try my hand at translating some popular ’20s and ’30s French songs.  Let’s hope the luck carries over.