A couple of nights ago I was in Toronto, at Statlers on Church Street.
As I stood, waiting to sing, a young person began telling me the history of Statlers…which goes very, very far back. Farther back then she knows, and farther back than I know. It has been a special place where, basically, people come to sing…and people come to drink and watch. But it is a lot more.
When I went a couple of nights ago it was filled with mostly young people (you be the judge of what young is…anyone below 30 is young to me), dressed to the nines, celebrating their community. This is a very special community. I know all communities are special…but this one has a special place in my heart. All these young people gather to celebrate cabaret and musical theatre…they sing their favourite songs, collaborate with each other, light the spark for future endevours, make important connections, and promote their work. It is a place where people know that any night of a lonely or punishing week they can wander in…by themselves…and run into like minded artists and patrons…there are other things that they can do there but I cannot think of them right now, as it is super early, and I have already been up, peed the dog and done a radio interview and am back on bed…and it is NOT EVEN 9:00am.
The interview was for an amazing gig that I am doing this weekend with Stratford Summer Music…oh, this concert is going to be awesome… 7 ladies (6 singers and one accompanist) are doing and afternoon of music to close this year’s festival. And the singers that I am getting the chance to sing with are some of my faves…Regan Thiel, Monique Lund, Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Amanda Wilhelm, Katherine Napawotzki with Charlene Nafziger on piano. The program is killer.
Anyhow, as I drove to the interview at our local AM station around the corner from my house, I was pondering how performing at Statlers was such an important part of my life. Since I had been there the other night the place and the people were really hanging in my mind.
I was 35 years old when I decided that I was going to largely stop doing theatre and concentrate on my cabaret work. Statlers was the very first place I went (it was down the street from where it is now and featured a very special grand piano…in a super small room…it was awesome, people) and asked to perform. I had some spectacular nights there. I called it “taming the tiger”. The crowd was so unpredictable that I never knew what was gonna happen…and I RELISHED IT. One night a gentleman yelled at me from the bar that if I sang another ballad he would kill himself…and I said, “Well, if you are gonna kill yourself go outside where it won’t get on any of us…”. And another night a gentleman yelled, “Stop talking…more singing…”…to which I brought him up onstage and made him tell us ALL a story…just to see if he could do it better. He wasn’t bad, actually.
Life is funny. The bulk of my first cabaret education were in the small rooms in Toronto and specifically Statlers in my “later” 30’s. Getting a call in the afternoon that someone had to back out of their gig that night and would I come and do 3 sets of 45 at last minute was one of my FAVOURITE things to do. I really dug the challenge.
And as I prepare madly for a big fall season of touring all around North America, beginning with the amazing concert in Stratford, I breathe in how much amazing places like Statlers educated me. When I started there I dreamt hard of having touring seasons…and developing pieces…and collaborating with amazing artists…performing for people in venues large and small…but I had to keep “taming the tiger” to do it.
Let me say here, touring and producing your own pieces is hard ass fucking work…the challenges are not to be believed sometimes…truly…ask George who has nursed me through every shit situation and then cheered me through every sold out house, development deal and exciting appearance. Truly it is the sublime to the ridiculous. The day I realized I had to schedule time to actually work on the piece I was performing because the administration of it was taking up more time then the rehearsing of it…BY FAR…was a watershed moment. (DISCLAIMER: I not 100% sure if WATERSHED is the right word to use here but I am too tired to check…so, you get me). Administration takes up more and more time as the endevours get bigger…and, finally, in the last few years I feel that the development and rehearsal times have also gotten longer…so, there is that…AND oh, I got help…but I still do a lot of the admin myself.
Anyhow, it was watching all those young people, led by the incomparable Jeni Walls, celebrate their community that reminded me of why I love to do it. Because, as it’s heart, cabaret is the belief of self. You cannot embark on a solo venture if there isn’t some small part of you that whole heartedly believes you can pull it off. AND THAT is a very big thing. And sometimes it may be A VERY SMALL part of you that believes…but it is there…and that part can fuel destiny. Everyone has a story to tell. And watching those young people tell theirs reminded me to pull up my boot straps and keep going.
These young people are out there innovating…creating…changing and doing new forms of cabaret. And that is amazing…it makes me feel all of my 47 years…and inspires me to find new ways to tell my own tales.
How amazing. Thank you, Statlers. Thank you, Jeni Walls. Thank you, Young People. Thank you, Mark Selby who came down there to play for me at a moments notice.
And thank you constant supportive people. Gratitude abounds. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to catch 20 more winks.
Here is a link for the Stratford Summer Music Concert I am doing on Sunday, August 28th at 2:00pm.
AND here is link to STATLERS Website.