Class Talent Show
I've been asked to discuss our Talent Show, what we call the Cabaret. We in '68 did our first Cabaret at our 15th Reunion and have done one every reunion since then. We performed our sixth Cabaret for our 40th Reunion (October 11, 2008). It was great fun and the best ever (until the next one).
Several points of advice.
- The key person is someone musical, in our case, Peter Larson, who can play the piano very well, indeed.
- Then, it is nice to have an organizing team, which might be one, two, or three other people to set it all up.
- It is essential to reserve a performance space ASAP. We reserved our performance space two years in advance. Try to reserve it starting the night before the performance for rehearsal and setup.
- It is also essential to recruit the performers starting two years in advance.
- The final key piece is a technical director.
- If your reunion is during the school year, because of the wonderful level of theatrical activity at Harvard College, finding a performance space is very difficult, and because technical support is stretched very thin doing all the undergraduate productions, finding a technical director who really has enough time to help fully and well in advance as we like it is also less than ideal. So, I suggest you do what we did. And that is, to use the JFK, Jr. Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School as your performing space and have the Harvard Kennedy School be the technical directors. They are very nice and, because the JFK, Jr. Forum is very active, they are very experienced. If your reunion is not during the school year, such as at Commencement or in May after school but before commencement, you will find plenty of performance spaces available, with Sanders Theater being the best. To get the performing space and the technical director then, you can go through Harvard College. Tom Morgan, Technical Director of College Theater at Harvard, can guide you in finding that space and that person. He's a good guy and very helpful. If your reunion is during the school year and you can't get the JFK, Jr. Forum, then I suggest you call Tom Morgan and ask for his help regarding a performance space and a technical director. And, being a good guy, he'll do what he can. As soon as you secure a performance space and time and a technical director, always let HAA know.
- I suggest you film your Cabaret. The best person to do that is Peter Benjamin. He does a lot of filming of Harvard events. He has filmed our two latest Cabarets and done a great job. The DVDs he produces are terrific. Pay for two cameras. It makes for a memorable DVD. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. (A cautionary note, The Crimson did a lovely piece on our Cabaret and wanted to have a link in the article to Peter Benjamin's videos. We did not do it, because once there is a link, there is YouTube, and once there is YouTube, no privacy. I suggest you do the same. Mailing out DVDs to classmates who order them has not caused us a problem, and they have enjoyed the DVDs immensely.)
- Make sure you have a class party right after the Cabaret. Everyone will be in great spirits and will have a fun time. Make it a cash bar. A great way to raise money for the class. Ideally the party should be where the Cabaret was. If you do the JFK, Jr. Forum, just use that room. If you do Sanders, you need to find another locale--perhaps the Queen's Head Pub.
- Since you are going to be very important in selecting the date for the reunion precisely because you need to get going so early securing commitments to perform from classmates, some of them amazingly busy, be aware of religious holidays so that you can avoid conflicts.
With that basis, you are ready to roll. Plan on three hours to rehearse. And make certain that each set is short, 5-10 minutes ideally. That allows for more performers and if someone is having a bad night, well, it's over soon. And never, ever run more than two hours. After two hours, you are virtually guaranteed to lose your audience. Above all, have fun. The Cabaret has brought classmates back to the reunion who wouldn't otherwise have come, has been a joy to participate in and to share with the class, and has been pivotal in building the class into a vibrant community.
Enjoy! Ed Kovachy '68 EdKovachy@aol.com