For Theater Undergrads, Life Not a Cabaret

    Only six of 25 proposed cabarets, to be performed in this Galbraith Hall space, were approved for Spring Quarter. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    When members of the theater and dance department posted a
    list of Spring Quarter’s approved student-run cabarets last week, they did not
    expect the backlash that it would ignite among the undergraduate student body.
    Of the six greenlighted cabarets, only three are directed by undergraduates — a
    figure that has motivated a group of students to petition the department chair
    to offer them more directorial opportunities.

    In addition to its quarterly production, the department also
    approves a number of entirely student-run cabarets. The department gives the
    approved cabarets a budget of $40 and allows student directors access to
    rehearsal and performance space, as well as stage equipment.

    This quarter, approximately 25 cabarets were submitted for
    approval for the six available slots, according to department Production
    Manager Michael Francis.

    Francis and Facilities Manager Laura Manning selected the
    cabarets this year. He said that decisions are not made on the basis of a
    play’s artistic merit, but whether the department already possesses the
    necessary resources to facilitate the show.

    The fact that some students held auditions before anyone
    knew which cabarets were going to be approved could have exacerbated
    disappointment with the selection
    process, Francis said.

    With a large number of unapproved undergraduate cabarets,
    some students have speculated that department administrators deliberately
    rejected many of their proposals.

    “Some people feel that this is the department reacting to
    people not auditioning for its production,” Sixth
    College
    senior Michael Kelly said.
    Kelly had already been cast in two cabarets not approved by the department.

    Because the department play was a musical theater
    production, not as many people tried out for it as usual, Kelly said.

    However, department Chair Charlie Oates denied that the
    department was attempting to punish undergraduates.

    “There was simply more people than there were spaces for,”
    he said. “That has nothing to do with it. I’m sorry if somebody has that
    impression, but that’s the furthest thing from my mind as an explanation.”

    Oates said that the surplus of graduate cabarets for Spring
    Quarter is probably due to a higher number than usual of graduate applicants
    than usual.

    During the 2007-08 academic year, there were a total of 10
    undergraduate cabarets to four graduate cabarets. The year prior, undergraduate
    cabarets outnumbered their graduate counterparts 13 to five.

    Additionally, undergraduates are often given performance
    opportunities in graduate productions, Oates said.

    Earl Warren College senior Raymond Castelan, an
    undergraduate adviser for the department, said that Fall and Winter Quarters
    usually have more slots for undergraduate cabarets because Spring Quarter is more
    graduate-heavy.

    “In reality, nothing was taken away, because nothing was
    ever guaranteed,” he said.

    Castelan said he doubted the decision was punitive, because
    the people who select the cabarets for approval are staff, not faculty, and do
    not have an interest in who tries out for the department play.

    Graduate students used to perform the cabaret selection,
    Castelan said, but the practice was discontinued because some graduate students
    showed favoritism toward certain undergraduates.

    However, Castalan said that the students whose cabarets were
    not chosen are finding other venues for their work.

    Kelly said the director of one of his cabarets is currently
    scouting other on-campus locations to perform the play, while the other was
    canceled.

    Revelle College
    junior Madeleine Allen said that some students were upset because the nature of
    the selection — with half of the chosen plays being directed by graduate
    students — created the impression that the department was disregarding its
    undergraduates.

    According to Allen, the department did not approve the
    full-length show she was directing due to high production costs. However, she
    does not believe that the department’s actions were punitive.

    Instead, she cited a lack of communication within the
    department as the reason for the discord. For instance, during a recent town
    hall meeting at which performance opportunities for undergraduates were
    discussed, Francis and Manning were not present.

    “The two people who made the decision are completely
    disconnected from the situation,” Allen said.

    Castelan, however, said he believes that the department
    communicates well internally, but people have to know where to find the
    information.

    John Muir
    College
    junior Kendra Miller, who
    was also directing a rejected cabaret, agreed that better communication is
    needed within the theater department.

    She said that she feels there will also be positive outcomes
    of the controversy, because it demonstrates students’ passion for cabarets.

    “Ultimately, I think a lot of good will come from this,
    because it shows the department how much energy and interest there are in
    people wanting to practice their art,” she said.

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