Cabaret: Sharing heart and meaning through story and song ...
The room was dark and the lights were focused on a young woman telling a story about an intense, personal relationship. The song she sang next was a perfect extension of that story, and seemed to have been written for that purpose, though everyone knew it wasn't. The audience was truly moved and as she finished, for a moment, there was not a sound in the hall. Then, one by one, the people listening began applauding, mixing cheers and vocal approvals with the loud hand clapping.
This is a scene that is very familiar to cabaret clubs throughout the world. A great story and a great song move us all. But this singer was a 16-year-old girl, who was new to the stage, and whose story was about her mom who had been a crack addict. The audience consisted of her family and peers, and other community members. She was one of twelve young people who had been working together for twelve weeks as participants in a performing arts program called Team Cabaret in Fullerton, California.
The story of Team Cabaret
Doug Simao and Kate Peters were introduced to each other in 1996 by their two teenage daughters, Katy and Katherine, who were best friends, having met in The Fullerton Children's Repertory Theater company. One thing led to another, and they became a blended family. The two Katherine's were entering high school, and with the addition of coming together as a family, Doug and Kate knew the girls were possibly at risk for having some problems in high school. They began looking for ways to stay involved in the girls' lives and also for places where the girls could talk about some of the challenges they were facing. The couple came up with very little to support this transition. However, both were believers in creating opportunity if you don't find it, so they put their heads together and came up with Team Cabaret.
It was actually a natural choice because of their backgrounds. Kate had been a voice teacher and performer for over 20 years, and Simao, a business man who was very involved in the arts in the community. They both enjoyed the medium of cabaret together, and felt it was a natural tool for self-expression. The Team Cabaret Manual explains it this way:
The mission of Team Cabaret
Team Cabaret was piloted at the Fullerton Union High School Academy of the Arts where Katy and Katherine were students, in 1998. There were 30 students in the first session. The program evolved to be a 40-hour program that can be taught as a once-a-week workshop (or more weekly meetings, up to 40 hours in a one week intensive.) It is taught as many performing arts programs are taught, with acting exercises, songs, and stage presentations, but the difference is that the goal of the program is "To give young people a safe place to express what has heart and meaning through story and song, and be applauded for it." With that in mind, the emphasis is not on how well they perform, but on how well they find what is important to them and learn to share it with others.
Since its inception,
Team Cabaret has touched over 100 families, and many other community members.
This year, it has expanded to include other high schools in Orange County,
and has become a non-profit corporation in order to allow for fundraising
to expand the program. Team Cabaret has developed further to include schools
outside of California through its national support program. This support
includes a manual that helps others to use the tools that make the program
unique, and a network of artists who are willing to lead workshops for
young people. The program has been recognized by the Orange County Business
Committee for the Arts, as well as the City of Fullerton for its commitment
to the young people and the community.