‘Vox' cabaret boasts eclectic acts

by Jenny Che | 11/17/10 11:00pm

On Friday evening, "The Good Reverend Wheelock's Vox Clamantis In Deserto' Cabaret And Rising Cavalcade" will bring an eclectic assortment of performances to the Bentley Theater at the Hopkins Center including excerpts from "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" and members of the Rockapellas, to name just a few.

The cabaret features 16 acts, primarily performed by undergraduate students ranging from singing and dancing routines to monologues and magic acts. Other acts include a routine with a deck of cards that culminated in the performer flinging his deck 20 feet out of the stage into the audience, and a popping-style dance routine set to the sounds of mechanical contraptions at work.

"It's really fun," Stefanie Ostrowski '14, a member of the Rockapellas, said. "There's a lot of talent here that I've been surprised by just watching it now and other people will be too."

According to director and theater department professor Chris Kohn, the production took influence from various styles of European cabaret, also pulling some elements from the Rat Pack and Johnny Carson.

"We wanted [something similar to] these performers who have historically had an interesting relationship with the audience," Kohn said. "It's certainly cabaret, but we weren't trying to force it we wanted something that was natural and worked best for the performers."

At the same time, Kohn wanted to steer clear of a solely music-based, Broadway-melody show, he said.

The cabaret's title comes from the name of Dartmouth's founder and its motto, "Vox clamantis in deserto." Kohn said he wanted to echo this theme of a wilderness removed from urban culture. Since most students do not come from the Upper Valley, what they find at the College is a culture that can be very different from their homes. According to Kohn, the idea of a voice in the wilderness represents the individual and each person's opportunity to let their artistic voices be heard.

"This is a time to be seen, to be heard, to be the focus of attention and to emerge from everything that Dartmouth is for an evening and let everyone see you in a light they may not have seen you in before," Kohn said.

Kohn added that once the cast had been assembled, a key component was to make the performance more than just a variety show. Kohn worked with Jay Ben Markson '10 to create a script that would streamline the different types of talents. Markson plays a jaded, alcohol-fueled emcee who may have seen too many talents and acts change over time. He introduces each performer almost begrudgingly.

"His shtick out there is a fun and sardonic take on master of ceremonies," Kohn said.

Although there are often student-produced cabarets that perform on weekends, Kohn said he thinks that the difference in "Vox Clamantis in Deserto" is that it involved more time and energy and also offers more in terms of production value the lighting, costumes and other technical aspects. The script also presents a grander overlying theme, taking it beyond students walking on stage and performing unrelated acts.

"It's a return to old style cabaret, like what you would find in a smoky 1920s nightclub in France," Aidan Nelson '12, an actor and sound designer, said.

The production is set against a simple backdrop that is well-suited for the variety of performances. The costumes are flashier and are used to complement the pieces and performers, with Markson donning a tuxedo, for example.

"It occupies a really interesting space between a play and a talent show," Markson said. "It's also a really low-key, tongue-in-cheek celebration of Dartmouth talent."

"Vox Clamantis in Deserto" opens this Friday at 8 p.m. in Bentley Theater. Performances will also run on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m.