People of color are extremely underrepresented in the arts, and with the recent horrific events in Charlottesville, VA, it's evident that there is a lot of progress to be made in order to make this world a safer and more tolerant place.
Manhattan, New York—On August 27th, The Great Room Company will host their first ever cabaret to provide opportunity for aspiring young artists. The cabaret, “Singr: An Intimate Cabaret,” was a project that has been years in the making after three theater performers realized that there is a huge lack of opportunity for young performers, and even less for artists of color.
Micheal Blasini, Parade Stone and Jonathan Rodriguez met back in 2014, while working in an off-Broadway production, Jimmy!: A New Musical With Almost No Historical Basis. Since then, they have each embarked on different journeys from auditioning and performing, to studying playwriting at a university. Despite their varied paths, they all maintained a deep veneration for the arts and decided that they would create their own opportunity in an industry where chances are scarce; "The thought of starting a theatre company has been in the back of our minds for about two years now. The three of us met working on a show and discovered how compatible we are as collaborators and friends. It was only natural that starting a company would eventually follow," says co-founder, Blasini.
The cabaret, funded completely by donations from donors who support the company’s mission, acts as a first date between the audience and the 12-person cast. This is an innovative concept that will portray a “theatrical form of Tinder, contrasting the superficial glimpse of a person through an app with the real and vulnerable experience of performing on a stage.” These producers have also been working tediously on lighting and set design to create an overall ambiance that the audience will definitely want to "swipe right" on.
In addition to people of color, the cast and crew include artists of varied sexualities and gender displays, which stays true to the company's mission of creating an open and safe space for marginalized groups. Micheal and Jonathan, in particular, are two Latinx individuals who take pride in being able to pay homage and appreciate their Puerto Rican and Dominican roots in an industry where their cultures are often stigmatized and misrepresented.
“As young, up and coming artist, we have a duty to control what we can—and that is creating work that is insightful and truthful and to instill inspiration for the future of art. If one person can leave with a smile, we’ve just started to scratch the surface,” says Rodriguez, co-founder of The Great Room Company.
Although the cast and crew have been working extremely hard, the environment that the three young producers have cultivated is different than you would expect from most performance companies, cast member Anna Paloma says, "The experience so far has been a breath of fresh air. There is a very collaborative nature to the rehearsal process, which is extremely different from any cabaret I have ever worked on. We are able to kindly critique and guide our cast members toward a grounded, effective performance." This is a quality that will help make The Great Room Company stand strong amongst the vast competition of performance ensembles in New York City.
The show will be around an hour and 45 minutes long and is going to be taking place at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in the Black Box Theatre. This 80-seat venue is extremely well known for hosting off-Broadway productions, but has graciously rented the venue to the company free of charge in efforts to “support the work of young, up-and-coming artists.”
As for the future of the company? The three young performers hope that they will be able to continue doing what they love while spreading their network to broader audiences. Co-founder Parade Stone says, "We would love to expand The Great Room to a broader collective of artists for more intensive collaborations. It would be exciting to work with up-and-coming singer/songwriters, composers, people with unique skill sets in lighting or sound design, or find a way to incorporate a visual artist. We would love to continue our mission of providing opportunities for diverse young adult theatre artists and technicians and are particularly interested in developing new work."
“Singr: An Intimate Cabaret” will be hosted by Anthony Fett. Fett has hosted many dance competitions as seen on the reality television show, Dance Moms, and has theater experience participating in National Tours for Beauty and the Beast and Bye Bye Birdie. Tickets are $20 and are going to be available for purchase starting this Thursday on Sheencenter.org.