By Rena Patel ‘20
For four perfectly marvelous days, the Theatre and Dance Department for the Claremont Colleges at Pomona College transformed Seaver Theater into the seedy 1930s Berlin nightclub, the Kit Kat Klub, which was center stage for many of the storylines in the department’s production of Cabaret under the direction of Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at Pomona College, Giovanni Ortega.
From Oct. 26 to 29, patrons of the show were immersed in the lives revolving around the club, from American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Evan Fenner PO ‘18) and alluring British club star Sally Bowles (Amy Griffin SCR ‘18), to the ever-present and elusive Master of Ceremonies (Juan Zamudio PO ‘18), as well as those from life outside the club like Fraulein Schneider (Emma Elliot SC ‘19) and Herr Schultz’s (Roei Cohen PO ‘21) timid romance, and Ernst Ludwig’s (Tomas Negritto PZ ‘19) dubious baubles. From the first act, it seemed that the MC’s opening remarks were true:
“We have no troubles here. In here [the cabaret] life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. Even the orchestra is beautiful.”
However, the looming threat of the rise of the Nazi regime seeped through the crevices of every aspect of the show from the lighting, music, acting, until there was nothing you could do but watch in horror as fear of the other tore Berlin apart.
I had first come across Cabaret almost four years ago when I was part of my high school’s production team. To me, it was like reading a favorite childhood book after growing older. Watching Cabaret during a time of heightened political tension and growing animosity towards the “other” made the experience much more urgent. Every line, every move, every decision was deliberate. And above all, it was a warning to not dismiss events of history so quickly.
The final scene of this show, is, in my humble theatre kid opinion, the most crucial. Each production is always different. My high school shocked its audience of rich conservative parents by dropping two giant Nazi banners (which would never again see the light of day) from the catwalks. And Pomona’s production did not disappoint. Being up in the tech booth during my own production of Cabaret deprived me of the experience of observing audience reaction to the ending, but as the hiss of the gas chamber filled the theater, I heard an audible gasp from the audience that made room for chilling silence as the stage went dark.
This show has always served as a cautionary tale and as a reminder of what a country divided in hate is capable of. And as the United States grows increasingly fraught with violence and discrimination against minorities under a regime that’s been compared to the likes of Hitler, Cabaret’s message is more dire than ever.
“So where are your troubles now?” the MC had asked during the final scene of the show. “Forgotten? I told you so.”
Four years ago, under the pressure of finishing the show without collapsing from the lack of sleep and stress of show week, I would’ve heaved a sigh of relief and agreed, but as the orchestra hit the final note of the show, my troubles, and the troubles of today, were nowhere near forgotten.