Open Cabaret: A New Venue for Creativity and Community

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As they move their base of creative operations to a larger space, the facilitators of the Friday Night Open Cabaret are hoping to simultaneously expand the eventís presence in the community. Held every Friday night from 8 to 10pm at the Independent Media Center in downtown Urbana, the Cabaret invites local residents to gather in celebration and support of artistic expression while indulging in scrumptious homemade goodies.
Since the inception of the Cabaret in mid-January, weekly attendance has ranged from twelve to perhaps sixty people. The performances have also varied widely, and have included experimental computer soundscapes, poetry, folk music, dramatic monologues, acapella singing, Old English incantations, comedy, and dance routines. Several weeks have seen the appearance of a ìfeatured artistî, an individual or group whose role is to set the tone for the evening with recurring on-stage appearances. The open format of the Cabaret allows for full creative expression limited only by the imagination and inclination of each performer. The only real constraint is that of time, as acts are limited to approximately 15 minutes in order to guarantee the inclusion of all performers, who are asked to sign up upon arrival.
The Cabaret is hosted by Brian Hagy and Darrin Drda, who not only act as emcees, but also add their own varying yet complimentary artistic talents to the mix. For the past seven years, Brian has been director of the Prompting Theater, a troupe comprised of adults with developmental disabilities, while Darrin is a singer-songwriter who has been a semi-active participant in and occasional host of open mic events, both locally and as far afield as India.
Like the IMC itself, the Open Cabaret is intended to be socially and artistically inviting. Small cafe tables lit by votive candles, couch seating, velvet drapery, and colored lights all contribute to a sense of intimacy not often experienced in more traditional open mic settings. With the availability of Fair Trade French-press coffee, Brie cheese, fruit, and local baked goods, the atmosphere is akin to that of a casual cafÈ or coffeehouse. Hagy, who has been instrumental in shaping the character of the Cabaret, is also hoping to collaborate with local restaurants that might be interested in providing other types of food for the event.
For everyone involved in the Cabaret, the challenge will be to retain a warm, communal, and creatively conducive atmosphere after the transition to the larger back room of the IMC. As an independent, non-corporate community venue, the newly-remodeled space will also be used throughout the week for other events and performances, and can be booked by contacting the IMCís space coordinator at
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