Fall Musical Helps Us to See Ourselves Through the Lens of the Past
This fall, the University of Idaho Department of Theatre Arts will stage the classic musical of decadence and decline in Germany’s Weimar Republic, “Cabaret,” by Joe Masteroff, John Kander and Fred Ebb.
A Highly Popular Exploration of Human Rights Set in a Decadent Berlin
While many know of the musical “Cabaret” from the film version starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey, the film is just one of the many iterations of Christopher Isherwood’s writings on his time in Berlin during the period before the Nazi takeover. Isherwood’s stories were later adapted into a play by John Van Druten, “I am a Camera,” which was later adapted into the 1966 musical by Masteroff, Kander and Ebb. The musical became a movie and then was later restaged and revised by Sam Mendes. That the story has been adapted in many different genres over the years demonstrates its continued relevance as artists work to understand the present moment through the lens of the past.
A Musical with Real Power
Director and U of I theatre faculty member Craig Miller writes that “the real power of ‘Cabaret’ as a piece of theatre and as art is its ability to respond to whatever is going on in the world, no matter when or where it is presented. For all of the exciting music, the amazing dance numbers, and compelling and colorful characters - this musical most importantly serves as an ever-relevant warning to humanity that, if we do not pay attention or should we stop fighting for our basic human rights, the evils of this world will make sure they are stripped from us, one, by one, by one.”
The Past is Present
The Weimar period in Germany and our current moment in the United States have much in common: both are marked by massive inflation, blame and persecution of Jewish people as those responsible for the nation’s troubles, erosion of citizen’s rights, and very public attacks on democracy.
The events of the last few weeks have once again demonstrated that the poison of antisemitism is still present in the US. Legislation has also been proposed in our own state and across the country restricting rights to access to gender-affirming care for trans people and marriage equality has also been threatened. The story of “Cabaret,” is increasingly relevant - reminding us that we cannot remain silent in the face of antisemitism, transphobia, and homophobia, the effects of which have already cost so many lives and violently affected people around the world.
In “Cabaret” we bear witness to the varied reactions of German citizens and visitors like Cliff and Sally to the rise of Nazi power - some choose to ignore it, others are forced to flee, some choose to go on about their business as normal because they feel powerless the stop the forces of hate practiced by their family, friends, and neighbors. Whatever their reaction, the characters of “Cabaret” are reflective of us, in this community of Moscow, Idaho, in this moment. Are we a Sally? A Cliff? A Fraulein Schneider? Will we, as a public, continue to avoid confronting the rise of hate against Jewish people and LGBTQ people in our community, our state, and our nation?
As Cliff says, “If you’re not against all this then you’re for it — or you might as well be.”
Written by Sarah Alice Campbell, assistant professor of theatre history, literature and criticism
Cabaret Show Information
NOTE: Please be advised this play includes mature content, including references to fascism, antisemitism and abortion.
Doors will open an hour before showtime with adult beverages available.
Performance Dates & Times
- 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28
- 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29
- 2:00 p.m. Oct. 30
- 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4
- 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5
- 2:00 p.m. Nov. 6
- Hartung Theater, 625 Stadium Drive, Moscow
- Free parking on the street and in the lot across from the theatre.
Ticket Prices & Online Sales
- Free for U of I students
- $5 children 16 and under
- $15 seniors and military
- $22 U of I faculty and staff
- $25 adults
- Tickets available at uitickets.com or at the Hartung Theater an hour before the show while supplies last. (Card only.)