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Although their jovial personalities might make it seem so, life’s not all a cabaret for busy freshmen Patrick H. Quinn ’10 and Juan D. Camero ’10. Director Quinn and assistant director Camero have worked relentlessly on the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s production of “Cabaret,” which goes up this week in the Loeb Ex. Both share a strong vision for the musical, which they decided to direct themselves after seeing another group’s take on Kander and Ebb’s script.
Quinn: [Juan and I] actually got to see a production when we were home over Thanksgiving. I thought it was so interesting, and that there were so many things that can be done with it. Unfortunately, the production we saw was a blatant rip-off of the Broadway production. I was just looking at it like, “Come on, there’s so much room for innovation!” I started thinking of ideas in the middle of the show, and Juan started putting in comments. By the end he came up with all these different analyses of the main character, Sally.
The vision Quinn and Camero crafted departs from both prominent previous versions of the show.
Quinn: We’re taking a really interesting look at “Cabaret” because there are two extremes of what’s usually done. It’s usually done as the traditional, flashy, glitter and sequins version with lots of dance numbers. That’s the 1966 version. The Broadway revival of 1998 is completely dark. From the moment the girls walk out, they’re completely bruised and they have faded tattoos and soiled white lingerie. It’s gross, it’s really scary. So there are two really weird extremes and we wanted to look at both.
Camero: We merged the two main ideas, and as the show progresses, the girls are literally taking off their sequined, red chokers and their garters, and just throwing them on the ground. By the end, they’re just in stark black and white.
With their previous experience—Quinn performed and staffed plays throughout high school, and Camero brings a strong musical background—the two have been able to play to their own strengths and to those of the cast.
Quinn: I’ve performed in a bunch of community theater shows, and I’ve done crew for shows. I know how shows work. I’ve probably been in two dozen in the past five years. The thing with directing is that as long as you prepare yourself and you pay attention to how you’re being directed when you’re in a show, you know what works and what doesn’t.
With adaptation comes flexibility, a skill in which Quinn and Camero are well versed. The two got creative when it came to finding rehearsal space.
Camero: We’ve lived in Cabot K entryway for most of the second semester. It has a wooden floor, and it’s almost the exact same size as the dance space we have blocked off in our set. The craziest place we’ve held rehearsal was a random little room in Lowell. The biggest thing is that we need dance space. We also practiced in renovated squash courts; we couldn’t find the light so we rehearsed in the dark for 15 minutes.
There was also the problem of strict copyright laws.
Quinn: We have taken special measures to acquire rights to Sally’s big numbers. Emerson [College] actually did a production in the fall, and they couldn’t perform those songs, so we requested rights to them.
Luckily for the audience, the duo’s innovation extends beyond logistics.
Quinn: The moment the audience walks in, they are going to be seated by actors speaking only in French or German. There are going to be tables and chairs set up, and the girls are going to be flirting with them. We just want to pull them in as soon as they walk in the theater, and really get them into it. They’re not just watching the show. They’re in it.
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