For Pegasus Players, a musical first: Cabaret

Professor Jeff Casey. Picture by Norwich University

With the completion of Mack Hall Auditorium, The Pegasus Players are making a big comeback by putting on the acclaimed musical “Cabaret,” winner of eight Tony awards and a highly entertaining show.
The goal is to “demonstrate to the community, that (the club) is doing work that deserves their attention,” according to the club and theater company’s advisor, professor Jeff Casey.
“This performance is stage one of our strategy of getting the community in to see the work we do. We want to be of service to the community and we want the people that live both inside and outside the gates of Norwich to come in and see what we’re doing,” said Casey, assistant professor of the theater department of English and communications and advisor to the Pegasus Players.

Casey started at Norwich between the destruction of Dole auditorium, where plays used to be held, and the construction of Mack Hall auditorium and he has ample experience with modern theater technology.
“Now that we have Mack, we have to up our game,” he said. “The new facility has fantastic acoustics, it’s much more attractive, and the lighting and sound equipment are state of the art. We are one of ten theaters in the United States that have the light board we have right now.”
Casey and the rest of the club plan on leveraging the space and its new technology in the 1966 musical “Cabaret.” “The play was part of an important transition period in the American musical,” Casey said. “It deals with questions of gender, race, and sexuality during the rise of Nazism in Germany during World War II.”
The play will be adapted to fit the Norwich setting and deliver the best possible product to the audience in the new performance space, Casey said, noting that there “will be a live band on stage and (we) will be fully utilizing the equipment” in Mack Hall.
According to Casey, unlike most theater companies, the Pegasus Players focus on more than just doing productions alone. Rather, it has a focus on education, affording its members the ability to learn more about the profession, often starting with little to no knowledge on how to operate the equipment necessary to run a play.
“We provide training in acting, technical work, organization, and publicity,” Casey said. “All of that training is something other places on campus offer, but we pull it all together under one umbrella, providing our students with a more robust fundamental understanding of all the moving parts of both play productions and just productions in general.”
“In this new space, we are having to train the students to work with the all the available resources,” Casey said. “We are going to fully utilize the equipment in the space.”
With all the new electronics, it’s no small task to fully train a team of students with equipment foreign to them. “The whole thing is a learning process,” he said.
“The technology is completely new, we might not learn everything, but we’re excited and the students are really into it, they are going to learn it and learn it all by the time it comes to running the show,” Casey said.
Mack Hall Auditorium, which was completed before the 2018 fall semester, was a key aspect of the construction of the new high-tech Mack learning facility on the Norwich campus. It took four months to build with $1.6 million in fabrication, technology, and set-up, according to Douglas White, senior project manager for construction services at Norwich University.
The new auditorium is approximately 3,976 square feet, features 381 seats, and is one of the most technologically integrated rooms on the campus. It boasts the “most current equipment and systems available. We have full theatrical lighting and rigging as well as a sound system that will serve us well into the future,” White said.
The massive amount of attention given to top-tier technology is part of a push to create more dynamic spaces around campus.
“We wanted to have it support everything from productions to panel discussions, to movies, to classes, and we wanted to have the acoustics, and the lighting, and the sound options to support any of those on a very regular basis,” said Dave Magida, Norwich University’s chief administrative officer.
The new auditorium, for a school the size and nature of Norwich, is an “extraordinary space,” said Magida. “We didn’t compromise on anything.”
“We used some of the best consultants and designers of auditoriums and theaters in the country, I think the result really speaks for itself,” he said.
Nearly all of the Pegasus Player’s rehearsals have taken place in the auditorium where they will be performing.
“Rehearsing in the actual space is so much easier than doing it anywhere else,” Casey said. “We are going to be able to do a lot more than we did in the past with this space.”
When the old outdated Dole Auditorium was torn down in 2016, it left the club without the space it needed to practice and rehearse for its performances.
“Last year was incredibly difficult, people lost interest because we didn’t have a theater,” said Tyson Parker, 21, a junior business management major from Kannapolis, N.C., who plays Fraulein Kost, one of the lead roles in Cabaret.
“We had to do little plays in the U-Building, Chaplin Hall, and the library,” she said. “You can’t really advertise your organization when it’s run out of the library or Chaplin, it made the entire thing uninteresting to students.”
Parker’s character, Fraulein Kost, is a female prostitute. “The biggest challenge for me is being someone you’re not, understanding that you’re not you anymore, you have to immerse yourself in the play,” she said. “It’s also completely in German, which makes it incredibly more difficult for us to master,” talking about the songs.
Though Cabaret is a musical taking place in 1929-1930 Germany, it was written with mostly English lyrics, except for certain songs. “I have to sing a song entirely in German and I haven’t taken a day of German in my life,” Parker said.
This first performance will be the first time in recent years that the Pegasus Players will be doing a musical. Previously, this was impossible, due to insufficient space and equipment.
“I fought all of last year to get a musical, but without the auditorium, it just wasn’t going to happen, I’m really excited to see how this pans out this year,” Parker said. “We’ve done Shakespeare and we’ve done everything else but a musical.”
According to Parker, being a performer is a lot of hard work. “We are kind of like athletes, we practice for seven weeks, then we have our big game and we are done,” she said. “We rehearse almost every night for four hours for seven weeks straight.”
The technology is not the only thing that’s new this year. “The costumes are really going to surprise people,” Parker said. “We have an amazing venue and will need amazing costumes to go with it, we have great people working on them, I’m incredibly excited about it.”
Carli Harris, 19, a sophomore English major from Barre, Vt, who is playing Sally Bowles in the play, said this is a “new beginning” for the Pegasus Players.
“I think our productions will be a good way for people to relieve stress and immerse themselves in the culture of Norwich, especially for the rooks,” she said. “We’re hoping to do two shows this year, it really was the best play we could have thought of to kick it off.”
In anticipation of the upcoming musical, the club will be taking steps to increase its footprint on campus. “This year I am both acting and running publicity and we are beginning to expand our outreach,” she said. “We are more present on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, and we are trying to get the word out in as many places as possible.”
Harris encourages everyone to come and watch. “I’m not going to reveal anything,” she said. “But, this play is going to provide people with a new perspective, the big message for the play is going to be to open your eyes, because ignorance can lead to many issues.”
Catherine Brennan, 20, a junior history major from Statesville, N.C., who plays The Emcee in the play, has been with the club for the past two years.
“We definitely have more people this year, I think the quality of the show is going to be a lot better now that we have an actual stage with new lights, and a new technical crew, we have a lot more to work with than last year,” she said.
“I feel like this play is going to encourage a lot of people to come see another one, they are going to be thinking to themselves, ‘what are they going to do next?’”
Cabaret will be performed in Mack Hall Auditorium at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 8-10. There are no admissions fees for students or the public and limited concessions will be available, however, no food will be allowed in the auditorium before, during, or after the show. Additionally, the club will be accepting donations.
“We owe a debt to the community and to the students of this university who support us, we believe this play is a step in the right direction of giving art and culture back to not only Northfield, but to central Vermont,” Casey said. “I truly believe everyone will love this show.”


This story has been updated to correct confusing quotes attributed to Prof. Jeff Casey regarding whether the score of the musical Cabaret was written in German. The Guidon regrets the errors.

 

Comments

  1. Cabaret was the first musical I took part in during the spring of 1998. (I was part of the tech crew for Marvin’s Room the fall of 97, running one of the follow spots, a role I also took on for Cabaret.) The black bar that used to be in Dole and was used in damn near every production from 98 until at least the last show I saw awhile back (Night of the Living Dead)? That was my creation. I built it so that Sally Bowles and the Emcee could sing and dance on it, because that’s what I was told to do. No one one questioned me until after I’d assembled it from 2x4s and 1/2 inch plywood. By then, it was too late, and the bar was Pegasus property for well over a decade.

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