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Is there prejudice in the cabaret business?
Posted by: cantsings 12:13 pm EDT 07/30/20

This is my first post here and I hope I’m not off topic cause this is about cabaret, not theatre. I don’t know where else I can post this, I don’t know if there’s a cabaret chat board.

Me and my roommate went in on this book about cabaret singing cause we haven’t been having a lot of success and thought it might help. It’s called So You Want To Sing Cabaret, it’s written by the people who do the Cabaret Hotspot website- we split the cost cause it’s hella expensive but after reading it we’re both thinking we should give up and move out of New York and find something else to do, like a lot of our friends are right now. The people who wrote it are big names in cabaret and we feel marginalized and reduced from what they wrote. We’re young people of color and feel completely erased as a demographic and as singers. In the whole book there is one person of color and maybe three young people talked to or written about. Almost every person they write about is a white person over the age of 40 and the one person of color they interview is Natalie Douglas. As a young person of color it might have been helpful to read about the business from the perspective of other young people and people of color, people like me. To make it worse, there are these insulting descriptions of the types of singers in the business- my roommate is a Latinx pop singer and I am a black soprano and what they write about pop and classical singers really offended us. Reading this book really makes us want to give up on being cabaret singers cause if David Sabella and Sue Matsuki are leaders in the business and this is their attitude, why bother? It’s like they’re telling us there’s no room for two young women of color and we think there is a race problem in cabaret that nobody’s talking about.

Everybody’s talking about racism and how things are going to change- movie and tv producers and theaters everywhere but not the cabaret community. There’s been almost nothing from the community during this time of protest. The Bistro awards website did 1 story about 4 black performers in cabaret but they didn’t talk to any other races. There’s lots of different people being discriminated against and people in cabaret aren’t doing anything about it. They’re not even talking about it.

There are no people of color on the board of the Manhattan Association of Cabarets. On MAC’s website are 11 board of director members, all white. The Bistro Awards Committee is 5 white people. There are 44 writers on the website for Cabaret Scenes- all white and the American Songbook Association are all white (though their advisory board does have 93 year old David Dinkins). There are 7 caucasians writing for Cabaret Hotspot and Broadway World has 2 caucasians covering cabaret, a man and a woman. Only Nitelife exchange has people of color on their staff list: 1 Asian female writer and 1 black male tech creative. The website for the Mabel Mercer Foundation shows a white founder, a white artistic director and a white managing director. Every leader in the cabaret business is white and in most cases over 40. How are young people and people of color supposed to feel like we are represented by what people say is our community? We’re not like actors - there’s no union to speak for us. People talk about the “cabaret community” but it doesn’t look much like a community. There are cliques that are based out of each club or that center around one person and those of us who are young or have darker skin are feeling ignored and left out of the conversation.

At last year’s Cabaret Convention there were 4 days of performances, 6 hosts and 71 performers advertised. All 6 hosts were white and of the 71 performers advertised, 11 were people of color. If you look at the list of singers there isn’t just imbalance in race but in age too. There’s a prejudice in the community that’s shutting out young singers who are hungry to work and be part of the cabaret community but aren’t given any attention til it’s time to sell some expensive classes or books on how to do cabaret. The people running cabaret only notice the young and diverse when they can make money off us, not when there’s a slot at the convention or in a group show or on a club calendar or at the MAC Awards, but lots of the people who won MAC Awards this year were MAC board members, which is kind of creepy but that’s a different conversation for someone else to have, like the fact that only 2 MAC winners this year were people of color. There’s a prejudice problem here and I know it bothers more than just the two of us but nobody looks like they’re doing anything about it or even talking about how prejudiced the business is to race, age, and diversity in talent.
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