THE 3o CABARET, written and directed by Adam Nashman, with Paul Lee, Sarah Martyn, Beche Ako and Sean Power. Presented by 3o Dance Theatre at Tallulah's Cabaret (12 Alexander). Previews tonight (Thursday, May 18), opens tomorrow (Friday, May 19) and runs to June 3, Wednesday-Sunday at 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $12-$15, Sunday pwyc. 975-8555. Rating: NNNNN
It's a hot spring day and we're sitting outside, but I swear I'm in the theatre. Two high-energy guys, Adam Nashman and Sean Power, are talking about themselves, their art and their lives. It's so fresh and passionate it can't be an act. Or if it is, it's a damned good one.
"Waneta Storms... Susan Serran..."
Power is running through a list of all the talented theatre people he thinks should be better known.
"... Sean Power."
"Yeah, move it along," teases Nashman, who then launches into a story about meeting Swedish director Ingmar Bergman in Stockholm.
"I was working with Robert Lepage on Celestina, got into Stockholm jet-lagged, and in walks someone I think is an old actor in a jogging suit. He asks how I handle sex in the play, stuff about the medieval period and personal relationships.
"I tell him about positions, sex and relationships. He's done all these movies on these subjects, he has nothing to prove to anybody, and he goes and talks to a little Canadian shit like me for half an hour. When he went away and the producer told me who he was, I fainted."
Receive recognition "George F. Walker... Paul Thompson..."
Power is now pointing out people who are doing good work and receive recognition.
"Richard Rose, although he didn't hire me for The Monument."
There's a point to these entertaining ramblings, I discover. They're about life, art and politics, the subjects of Nashman's new play, The 30 Cabaret, which opens tomorrow (Friday, May 19) at Tallulah's.
If this is the opening act, I can't wait to see the entire show.
Nashman, still high from the writing triumph of Lepage's The Far Side Of The Moon at the World Stage festival, conceived the piece about a year ago at a King West watering hole.
Drinking with his fiancee, dancer/choreographer Nicola Pantin, who's a key part of the show, he saw a napkin fall to the floor.
"It was this brilliant white napkin on a black, black floor, and I said, 'There's a piece here.' The play gradually turned into something about social and political issues. It became this cabaret show about one guy trying to keep this cabaret alive."
That guy, Jimmy the Emcee, is played by Power, best known for electric performances in David Rubinoff's Stuck and Nashman's The Threepenny Epic Cabaret, where he played Kurt Weill.
"Jimmy says, 'All I want is to do my stuff,'" says Power, whose recent play Lady Speak Easy, about Billy Holiday, enjoyed a sold-out run at the legendary La Mamma Theatre in New York.
"The subtext is that you almost have to be a crook in this business to actually get things done."
"I've never seen a real cabaret, in the sense of a political entertainment," says Nashman. "I've seen stuff with music and little political songs, but never a political thrust through a whole show. That's what I wanted to do here."
Hounded by loan sharks, Jimmy manipulates those around him, exploiting the show's artists (Pantin, Paul Lee, Sarah Martyn, Béché Ako and legendary jazz musician John T. Davis) and subtly jabbing away at issues like squeegee kids and privatized healthcare.
"The first protests against fascism started in Athens with the Greeks," says Nashman. "I'm not saying we're living in a fascist government. I'm a heavy-duty believer in democracy. That's what we voted in. But it's the responsibility of artists to nudge people and get them thinking about things. In an entertaining way."
The entertainment factor is important, which is why the show draws on different performance styles and genres, from Ako's African rhythms to Pantin's cool modern dance.
Bored easily "With theatre you can make the audience laugh, sing, think, dance in their chairs," Nashman says. "I get bored easily. I've worked on shows that have underwater tanks, where the whole show's in water and it costs $1 million. Well, gee, I saw that in one scene in Titanic.
"The magic of the theatre is in the imagination. That's something that doesn't cost money."
For Power, the metaphor of keeping a show alive is even more intense.
"If you stop fighting, it's going to be all crap from here till the end," he says. "There'll be a play on King that has WWF stars in it. That's the next step."
"Hey, that wouldn't be so bad," adds Nashman. "If it were done with imagination."