See the 1930s come to life in two local college productions

By Joel Pierson H-T Columnist
April 8, 2012

Hard to believe the IU theater season is already coming to a close. It’s been quite a year, and they’re going out with a bang: Kander and Ebb’s iconic musical, “Cabaret,” under the direction of George Pinney and Jay Ivey.

The history of “Cabaret” goes back to a 1939 novella, which was followed by a 1951 play about the denizens of Germany’s racy Kit Kat Klub in the early 1930s. It focuses on the relationship of American writer Clifford Bradshaw and English singer Sally Bowles.

Director George Pinney says, “‘Cabaret’ is an enticingly dark story of the human condition. People tend to want to stay in their safe little worlds to escape everyday trials as well as national and international concerns. To continue life as if it is a party, until the bubble bursts and no one wants to take responsibility but is ready at the quick to blame others.

“The cabaret is a central metaphor of how humans tend to want to avoid life’s responsibilities, to dance and sing on a spinning merry-go-round, blurring the outside world and anesthetizing body and soul with liquor, drugs and sex.”

Indeed, I must officially go on record as saying that avoiding responsibilities through the use of liquor and sex is bad! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

“Cabaret” is one of those musicals where people usually know only one or two songs, typically “Wilkommen” from the show’s opening and “Cabaret” (as in “life is a . old chum”) from the ending.

In between, the musical is packed with two dozen more songs, intricate choreography, amazing costumes, and sizzling passion. The 1967 Broadway production snagged eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and 45 years later, it’s still as vibrant as ever.

It’s been a powerful season of theater for Indiana University, and “Cabaret” is poised to send them out in style. For some of the cast, it will be auf wiedersehen after this show, so come celebrate by watching them ply their trade.

If you go

WHO: Indiana University Department of Theatre and Drama

WHAT: “Cabaret” by John Kander, Joe Masteroff and Fred Ebb

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 17 — 21; 2 p.m. April 21

WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theater, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

TICKETS: $10 — $25. Call 855-1103 or see

ACHTUNG, BABIES: “Cabaret” contains mature content. Is nicht for der kinder.


On strike at Ivy Tech

The mighty cream and crimson isn’t the only local institution of higher learning treading the boards this week.

In fact, it’s a historic week for Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington, as they present their first student play at the John Waldron Arts Center that they helped save. They’ll be presenting Clifford Odets’ classic “Waiting for Lefty” in the Waldron’s Rose Firebay.

Like “Cabaret,” it is also from the 1930s, and it tells the tale of a group of cab drivers as they prepare to go on strike. Told as a series of seven distinct and interconnected vignettes, the cab drivers tell their stories as they await the arrival of Lefty, their appointed chairman.

Productions typically involve unusual storytelling techniques, such as planting actors in the audience to respond to things said on stage, breaking the fourth wall, and using minimalist staging techniques. This unconventional theatricality makes “Waiting for Lefty” a great learning tool for the student team.

“As a comprehensive community college, it is part of the mission of the Ivy Tech Bloomington campus to provide arts education and arts opportunities for students,” said Chancellor John Whikehart in a news release. The play’s director, Paul Daily, added, “Although the play is almost 80 years old and very much of its time, with the Occupy Movement and the Right to Work controversy, it is relevant again.”

I applaud the Ivy Tech team as they occupy their arts venue, and I encourage the community to share in what I hope will be the first of many productions to come.

If you go

WHO: Ivy Tech Community College- Bloomington

WHAT: “Waiting for Lefty” by Clifford Odets

WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center’s Rose Firebay, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 18-21; 2 p.m. April 21

TICKETS: $5 — $15. Available at the Buskirk-Chumley box office, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., 812-323-3020 or

Contact Joel by sending an email to with “Pierson” in the subject line.
Copyright: 2012

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.