Cabaret Long Table

cabaret long table image

Cabaret as Translocal Praxis: A Long Table Discussion

Convened by T.L. Cowan

 

Call for Praxis

Cabaret—broadly, the satirical variety show—is arguably the most resilient form of grassroots feminist, trans* and queer live performance around: in every city across Canada (and well beyond) cabaret pops up in bars, cafés, sex toy stores, theatres, university and high school cafeterias and community centres. Yet, while cabaret is an intensely translocal phenomenon (traversing locales in a way that does not privilege national borders and doing similar work whether in Mexico City, New York City, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, or Halifax) there is fairly little circulation of cabaret artists from place to place. Which is to say that cabaret itself is a border-crosser—or perhaps a border-dweller—an embodied social practice that lives in and between many places at once.

Although you’d be hard pressed to find anyone involved in feminist, queer and/or trans* artistic and political scenes who hasn’t attended more cabarets than they can count on their fingers and toes (certainly, both attending and performing in cabaret might be understood as a responsibility we love to hate), very little has been said about contemporary cabaret as praxis—a politically and erotically charged aesthetic and critical practice. Thus, in anticipation of the staging of Dirty Plötz: Reviled and Revered (Congress Re-dux) as part of the 2014 CATR, WGSRF, and ACCUTE programming, and as a way to interrogate and inhabit the theme of “Boundaries Without Borders,” this Long Table discussion on the topic of cabaret as a translocal praxis will allow us to engage with cabaret from a variety of vantage points including but not limited to the following:

-What is cabaret to you? What is cabaret where you live/perform?

– What does cabaret allow you to do, where you do it?

– Is there such a thing as a ‘cabaret methodology’?

– If there is a theory of cabaret, what is it to you?

– What are some limitations of cabaret?

– How does cabaret differ from place to place?

– How does cabaret become political? Is it always political?

– What does it mean when ‘cabaret’ means different things in different contexts?

– How do we translate cabaret practice/method/theory? Is cabaret portable?

– How does cabaret work beyond the stage/the theatre/the bar? (i.e., in the streets? In the classroom? Online?)

– How can scholarly work deploy a “cabaret methodology?”

– What are the affective labours required from cabaret audiences?

– What are the labour conditions of being a grass-roots cabaret artist?

– What are ways to theorize, foreground or signal a ‘cabaret methodology’ as ‘trans-discipline,’ ‘inter-discipline,’ intra-discipline, or  ‘anti-discipline’ when we theorize cabaret within the larger ‘disciplinary’ history and practice of performance studies and/or when we use this method to engage with other objects/sites/scenes/bodies of inquiry?

– Cabaret: inclusive/transformational/diverse/tokenizing?

– What are the historical and contemporary relationships between sex work and cabaret?

– How does cabaret work (or not work) as a for(u)m for activist/pedagogical performance?

This Long Table Discussion will include the cast & crew of Dirty Plötz and welcomes participation of anyone (artists, scholars, cabaret audiences) who would like to engage with these ideas and bring their own ideas about cabaret to the table.

ABOUT THE LONG TABLE:

The format was created by performance artist Lois Weaver (Spiderwoman Theatre, Split Britches Company, co-founder of WOW Café & Professor of Contemporary Performance at Queen Mary University). This format/performance “experiments with participation and public engagement by re-appropriating a dinner table atmosphere as a public forum, and encouraging informal conversations on serious topics. It is literally a very long table set up with chairs, microphones and refreshments where anyone and everyone is welcome to come to the table, ask questions, make statements, leave comments on the paper table cloth, or simply sit, watch, and listen.” By using the Long Table form for a discussion about translocal cabaret methods, theories, practices, aesthetics, politics and production, the organizers hope to encourage broad participation from anyone who has something thoughtful to say about cabaret.

The Cabaret Long Table is a project developed by T.L. Cowan & Laura G. Gutiérrez.

TO PARTICIPATE:

Everyone is welcome to participate in the Cabaret Long Table. If you would like to be listed in the program as a participant (which would mean you would be part of the first group discussants around the table), please send a 350-500 word response a) to one or two of the questions listed above, or b) pose and answer your own question(s) about cabaret, along with a short cabaret about your experience with/in cabaret, to Long Table convenor, T.L. Cowan (cowant@newschool.edu). Deadline for Praxis Sessions will be set soon by CATR’s programming committee.

SCHOLARLY RATIONALE:

In her book, Performing Mexicanidad, Laura G. Gutiérrez—writing particularly about Mexican and Chicana cabaret performance—observes that, “one of the ways in which queer political cabaret undoes [the] complicated position that the queer and racialized body occupies in culture is by excessively and humorously proposing alternate ways of seeing ourselves.” Similarly, a central argument of Shane Vogel’s The Scene of Harlem Cabaret is that cabaret is a site of productive and transgressive “social disorganization” across race and class. And importantly, Viviane Namaste (C’était du Spectacle!) and Becki Ross (Burlesque West) have reminded us that the history of cabaret in Canada is a history built by transsexual women and sex workers; however, in contemporary cabaret scenes this genealogy is often overlooked in favour of a nostalgia for European fin-de-siècle and war-time cabaret artistique. One of the functions of this Long Table is to consider how we contend with these border-crossing genealogies in the Canadian Performance Studies context.  We will also consider the ways that cabaret methods might be usefully transferred to critical research, writing and teaching methodologies as a model of trans- or intra-disciplinarity.

LONG TABLE ETIQUETTE

Conceived by Lois Weaver

 

THERE IS NO BEGINNING

 

IT IS A PERFORMANCE OF A BREAKFAST, LUNCH OR DINNER

THOSE SEATED AT THE TABLE ARE THE PERFORMERS

 

THE MENU IS UP TO YOU

TALK IS THE ONLY COURSE

 

THERE IS NO HOSTESS

IT IS A DEMOCRACY

 

TO PARTICIPATE, TAKE A SEAT AT THE TABLE

 

IF THE TABLE IS FULL, YOU CAN REQUEST A SEAT

ONCE YOU LEAVE THE TABLE YOU CAN COME BACK

 

THERE CAN BE SILENCE

YOU CAN BREAK THE SILENCE WITH A QUESTION

YOU CAN WRITE YOUR QUESTIONS ON THE TABLE

THERE CAN BE LAUGHTER

 

THERE IS NO CONCLUSION

 

(from the Lois Weaver – available via the Hemispheric Institute: http://hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/en/enc13-round-tables/item/2104-enc13-lt-performance)