Players’ Cabaret Backs Charity

by Katie Heneghan & Maddie Johnson , Web Editors 

While in-person audiences and performances for the Manhattan College Players have been sidelined because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the club decided the show must go on. On Oct. 23 and 24, via Zoom video, Players put on their annual cabaret.

The theme for this year’s cabaret was quarantine. On top of being virtual, this particular production was unique in the sense that all proceeds were fundraised in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.  

Sami Rini, a junior and the producer (president) of Players, shared how vital it was for the cabaret to be turned into a fundraiser, in light of the social issues that sparked attention this past summer. 

“Over the summer, primarily May and June, it was urgent for players to be involved in social action, and we sent out a letter regarding our dedication to Black Lives Matter and the movement as a whole, but words are nothing,” Rini said. “We knew that action needed to go hand in hand with that so we came up with the idea of using cabaret as a fundraiser for an organization that would in some way benefit the Black Lives Matter movement. So the fundraiser that we chose is Black Table Arts.” 

Black Table Arts is a non-profit organization that promotes black artists and educates people about how socially relevant and inspirational the arts can be. 

Like Black Table Arts, Players wanted to utilize the power of entertainment to make their voices heard and to spread awareness about a cause they deeply care about. 

“[Black Table Arts is] based in Minneapolis and it’s an art program basically for Black lives where they just want to amplify their voices especially, and it’s just very dedicated to that, which I think is really important to amplify in our theater program,” Julia Morris, a junior and co-director of the cabaret, said. 

Despite COVID-19 restrictions stopping in-person rehearsals and face to face interaction between actors, Players have been adapting to virtual rehearsals to get the most out of their pandemic performances, where they strive to keep the camaraderie they had when in-person. 

Junior Maren Kain, the secretary for Players, described how Players has remarkably been able to maintain the wholesome and accepting atmosphere they’ve had in their theater group, regardless of being online.

“A major reason that all of us are involved in players in the first place is because of the community,” Kain said. “It has always been so welcoming and a very safe place for all of us to explore what we love to do together.”

Going into his production, Kain was concerned the social aspect of Players would be lost. However, the Players group has designated a warm-up time before rehearsal starts to create the social interactions that would normally occur in person. 

“Something that we’ve implemented into our tech week rehearsals is a 15-minute warm-up, which is always before rehearsal officially starts, and it’s like a designated social time where we get to know each other,” Kain said. “We ask questions, we do icebreakers and we do vocal warm-ups, and that’s been a really great way that we can kind of mimic the environment that a live show provides.”

Along with working hard to ensure rehearsals ran smoothly and productively, Players also had to pay close attention to how performers were going to adapt to not having a live audience in front of them. Junior and cast member Anna Jerrems explains before the cabaret that she was hopeful the strong connection she built with her castmates would make up for the unusual dynamic between the actors and the audience. 

“Well, we’re not going to have the feedback and like the energy to go off of, so that’s gonna be a lot different,” Jerrems said. “But I think the connection that we feel between each other is definitely going to be more than enough.” 

Morris added, saying Zoom in some ways has been prominent in boosting actors’ confidence when performing virtually, such as when viewers and other actors can motivate performers by writing in the chat box. 

“One thing we’ve been highlighting a lot is because we don’t have the audience, we’re just blowing up the Zoom chat like, ‘yeah oh my god you’re killing it,’ and that’s been very beautiful,” Morris said.

With technology being essential for academics, activities and events to resume as they normally would, Players was very dependent on the tech team to make sure the production was as entertaining as it would be if in-person. Rini commended the tech team and director for the time and effort they spent in making sure everything was in check for the show to take place virtually.

“We give a big round of applause to our amazing tech team and our incredible director, who has been working tirelessly to make sure that we have everything in place,” Rini said. “They’ve been working to find different applications that could be better suited for a virtual production, and that can add another element to the show. For example, for our main stage production, we all download Snap Camera, which allows us to use filters, which is super helpful for this specific production because we’re changing characters a lot, so you always know who is playing who. So our tech team was really the people that brought it together.”

To mend the chaos and stress this semester has brought upon the Manhattan College community, the Players believe the cabaret was a great way to laugh at the unprecedented time of the virus, all while supporting a significant cause. 

“I think it’s a really beautiful thing to see the arts persisting right now,” Rini said. “It’s a wonderful de-stressor, just the time to laugh and process a lot of the common experiences that we all had with quarantine and to just listen to a bunch of beautiful people serenade you. What’s better than that.”