By Nick Parker
Flanked by cabaret dancers and holding a mic in her hand, Edurne Arostegui stood center stage and triumphantly sang, in German, the solo piece, “Ich Bin Marie.”
Many people who heard her stunning vocalization on May 10 of the cabaret classic may be surprised to know that prior to the show’s opening night, Arostegui had never sung on stage before.
The International Playhouse’s four successful presentations brought in a crowd of over 100 theatergoers at each show, and featured almost exclusively amateur actors.
The students put together pieces, translated them, and performed them in a language and style that were foreign to the majority of the participants.
“Some of my students only had two or three quarters of language under their belts,” said Judith Frisk, German professor and director of the show called Kabarett. “Not only that, but they were working in a Berlin dialect, so many of the words and phrases were different from spoken German.”
Each of the five theatre productions featured in the International Playhouse brought the audience not only a new experience in language, but also promoted historical awareness.
The subtitle notes of Kabarett explained how German cabarets in the 1920s reflected the cultural atmosphere, and also how National Socialists shut down the clubs during the 1933 takeover.
The notes explained the goals of a tumultuous era: “Testing the boundaries of gender, bobbing their hair, wearing tuxedos, or throwing off the Victorian corset, women defied the age-old convention that husbands might have admirers, but young women could not â€¦ A new age brings women bold new roles.”
The production El Delantal Blanco (The White Apron) was based in Santiago, Chile and portrayed the disillusionment of the Chilean lower class in the ’50s and ’60s.
“In 1964, Chile was a place with a growing leftist movement — a movement for democracy,” said Paco Ramirez, director of El Delantal Blanco. “It was a poor country oppressed by a very small group of people.” Frisk described the performances as “a unique pedagogical experience.”
In addition, many of the plays displayed humorous and satirical perspectives.
In one scene of El Delantal Blanco, performer Nick Reynolds, who played an old man, ennumerated his complaints about the lower class becoming too self-righteous and pondered what was to blame for the change.
After a brief pause he said one word: “Comunismo,” eliciting a riotous laughter from the audience. “I was surprised,” Ramirez said. “I thought the play was more serious.”
The audience and performers found the production both entertaining and educational, a combination that is often difficult to pull off.
Andy Aleksandrov, sound engineer for the Russian play Dead Souls, said, “I learned a lot about Russia and my own background from working on this play.”