The 3rd Annual Gwangju Performance Project Cabaret

Words by (Paranoid) Peter G

Photos courtesy of Ben Robins Photography

“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” (Do you want to sleep with me?)
— From “Lady Marmelade” to appear in Cabaret 2017

I recently sat down with Ender Waters, the director of the Gwangju Performance Project’s 3rd Annual Cabaret, and he revealed some shocking information about this year’s show and the GPP in general. The organization is apparently run by an all-volunteer staff, and he believes Cabaret is “First and foremost about the community.” But what drives this community to give so much of itself so freely?

Sex. There, I said it. I even have it on tape. Consider this year’s masquerade theme. Promotional material has stated that “Attire is formal, and we request that you come with a mask.” Who wears masks, I ask you? Criminals. Sexual deviants involved in criminal activity openly on display as community performance.

“Yes, well, there is nothing wrong with a little adult fun, as long as it is legal,” you might say. “And, it is community theater!” Well, who exactly are these community members?

Waters identified several of them at our meeting, and the names should not really surprise you. If you have attended any of the events that GPP puts on such as the recent murder fest, Little Shop of Horrors, you would recognize Cabaret’s vocal director, the “fantastic” Cat Neil. She was one of the three street urchins that brought the house down during the December performances at GFN’s Peak Music Theater this past year. She is the current GPP vice president and director of last year’s production of Shakespeare’s irreverent A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The “fantastic” Thando Mlambo is another talented pillar of this theater community that will be performing with a dance troupe. As choreographer for the comedy-horror “Little Shop,” she has plenty of blood on her hands. One should not be surprised that she is overseeing all the dance acts in Cabaret this year.

Ashley Johnson, as producer of Cabaret, has been identified as a major contributor to GPP. According to Waters, she “has been our cheerleader, always pushing [us] on to do bigger and better things.” Well, when this girl is not putting on shows, she also masquerades as one of Tequilaz’ bartenders.

Tequilaz, itself, may be connected to the scandal that is the GPP Cabaret. Certainly, the bar staff are, since Stel Deianne has also been implicated by Waters as being responsible for several aspects of the upcoming show. Apparently “she is whipping up a special cocktail just for the event.” Per Waters, Stel is the space coordinator, and she has arranged the venue, Party Town 57. And according to Waters, it is “perfect… could not imagine anything better.”

Cabaret mostly features acts from pop music and musical theater, which may sound innocent enough, until you translate some of the French-Creole lyrics from Lady Marmalade, which is listed as one of the songs for Cabaret. And if you thought Lady Gaga’s song “Bad Romance” could not get any raunchier (I want your psycho/ your vertigo shtick/ want you in my rear window/ baby you’re sick), wait until you hear the jazz cover that is rumored to be in the works for Cabaret. Masquerade versions of standards like “Cellblock Tango” (Chicago) and songs from the original Cabaret will also be part of this Saturday night to regret. Waters also shamefully admitted that some rather innocent Disney tunes may even appear, which, I have to say, is wrong on another level.

Waters’ idea of introducing an element of authentic social-commentary is to include stand-up comedy acts this year – and we all know how potty-mouthed comedians can be, so be prepared to cover your ears. Waters has stated that Cabaret is “just a way to bring everyone together,” but after having had a few cups of Korean instant coffee, he admitted that his aim in the project is “to give a decadent feel of an Italian Late Renaissance Masquerade Ball… Cabaret has always been one of the more adult nights in Gwangju. It is sexy, not obscene, just flirtier and a little bit seductive… sexual.”

I rest my case.

And to the community responsible for GPP Cabaret, I say “Itchi gitchi ya da,” which, I think, means “Break a leg.”

*Thank you also for the cooperation of GPP President, Monique Dean Onyema.

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