Bringing out a little variety

John Koenig

Nearly one year ago, senior Meg Britain was performing for her first time in the UW-Eau Claire annual production of “Cabaret.” This year, in addition to performing, she’s also student directing, which has added a lot of responsibility.

Finding the balance between a busy school schedule, social life, acting in Eau Claire’s fall play “Everyman,” and preparing for Cabaret was no easy task, Britain said.

“I’d start working at (10 or 11 p.m.) and would finish at like, four in the morning,” Britain said, smiling. At one point she had to arrange three songs in one week, she said.
Britain said the student directors had a large work load.

They were responsible for writing roles, choreogarphy, designing costumes and lighting.

“You really need to have knowledge about theater,” she said.

Britain, a music education major, is one of eight student directors who have been working since the closing of last year’s Cabaret to make this year’s show comparable to a professional cabaret.

“Cabaret Platinum XXVIII,” this year’s edition of the annual Cabaret, is put on by the Eau Claire music and theater arts students. Cabaret is a variety show that gives music and theater students an opportunity to put on a musical.

Gary Schwartzhoff, one of the faculty directors working on this year’s production, attributes the energy of this year’s show to the current student leadership.

“This year we have a strong group of student directors,” Schwartzhoff said.

Student directors are chosen for their ability to arrange music as well as their leadership skills. They run auditions, arrange the choral music and choreograph the dancing for their numbers.

Two students are chosen from each of the four participating choirs: Concert Choir I, Concert Choir II, The Singing Statesmen and Women’s Concert Chorale.

Every year, Cabaret has a different theme. This year’s theme is Platinum. Each student director had to find and arrange songs for albums that went platinum.

After the theme of the show was decided, the directors each chose four songs they would like to see performed. They then voted on which songs would be in the show.

The student directors had all summer to arrange these songs into choral pieces. In the fall, the directors met in class where they finished their pieces, learned how to direct and prepared for rehearsals.

Auditions for Cabaret began in October.

Britain said she had a difficult time choosing members to perform due to the high number of auditions.

Typically, Women’s Concert Chorale only permits 25 of its members to perform in Cabaret. This year, however, 27 members are to perform.

“We added two more members this year because the competition was so high,” Britain said.
They worked almost 12 hours a day during “hell week,” the name given to the week before the performance.

The cast members had only the few days before opening night to learn the second set of songs for the show.

Britain said she didn’t find much difficulty in teaching the material so quickly.
Fellow student director senior Mark Lundin agreed.

Lundin described much of his choreography as fast-paced and athletic.

“Many people saw it as a challenge to be met, and (the cast) stepped up,” he said.
This year, one-third of the cast is first-time Cabaret members.

“The energy is exciting and different,” Britain said.

Overall, she said her role as a student director has been challenging but rewarding.
“This has been a great opportunity,” she said. “This is what I want to do.”

Britain said the show came together because of the hard work from all the student directors.

“It’s not just me working,” Britain said. “It’s all of us. The other student directors have put in just as much work as I have.”