Wednesday, October 08, 2014

ON Cabaret, What I have learned...THAT sounds too fancy....

Lord, I hate it when summer leaves...leaves...get it...see what I did there.
Yes, I know it... I am a mess.
Oh yes...I hate it when summer is over.
Ontario is so moody in the fall.
The sun disappears for long periods of time.
The wind whips...the rain hurts your face.
I have to go into the bowels of my basement and pull out my horrible rubber boots because god FORBID that the makers of fine rubber boots would make a pair that fits over the calf of a woman whose ancestors carried milk...yes...this woman inherited big calves, is what I am trying to say.
I remember a dude I was working with in Showboat told me that I had milk maid calves...I am not sure what part of that description he thought would make me happy...or that he imagined I would find quaint.
It has stuck with me.
I guess I should be proud that I can shoulder a it were.
I put on my crap rubber boots and I walked my friend’s dogs today...they are staying with us for a week...they are good dogs for the most part...though, the have crapped in the house EVERYDAY.
I am not having much of that...but what are you gonna do.
See how MOODY fall makes me?
ANYHOW, it has been so long since I wrote and this seemed like the perfect time...wait...I have to go grab an effing sweater...jesus, it is cold in this seemed like the perfect time to write some bits and pieces...mostly to collect my thoughts for myself.
Recently, a young person who is new to the entertainment business wrote me an email asking if I had anything coming up that they could come and see...and I wrote them back...anyhow, we emailed back and forth and they ended up asking me what I think I learned from my journey in cabaret thus far..and what I have learned since I started my residency at Buddies.
Well, I walked away from my computer to get a tea...and thought, “Well, the cheek...” and then I started and erased a couple email responses.
I could not collect my thoughts sufficiently to answer...I spend so much time soldiering on, I don’t really look back as much as used to.
Which is good in some ways...not so much in others, I guess...GOD, SO MOODY!
Anyhow, with the seasons changing...lord...this sentence already makes me, let us just say...I sat down and had a think.
I feel like a change has happened in my creative life (not THE change...not yet...lord...I have THAT to look forward to) and my career.
And I think it is pretty awesome...and sometimes scary...but awesome. And thrilling...and scary.
From 2005 to 2012...for seven amazing years I worked and wrote and sang and promoted and wrote more and sang and told stories and traveled...focusing solely on cabaret ..and it WAS very busy and very wonderful...and I learned more than I could ever have imagined...about so many aspects of cabaret....and, people, I feel like I STILL have not even scratched the surface...
Learning about budgets for touring, about promoting (remember, FACEBOOK, and social media what just really kicking off in 2005...and I promoted everything back then mostly by email, by whatever print media I could get, by postering, by word of mouth...), I learned about show formats and studied my ass off to figure out what worked the best for me, I learned to look at pictures of myself and say, “Yes, I don’t look the way I wish...but god this picture is perfect to sell the show!”, AND I also learned to watch hours of footage of my shows from a place where I (hopefully) could be analytical and honest about my own work and correct the things that needed it, I learned about shaping a piece through glorious repetition, I learned about studying and using the audiences to help shape the piece... I struggled LIKE A DOG for three years to find my very best 15 minutes, the 15 minutes that will sell the show (and let me tell you ...I know  what some of my NOT SO BEST 15 minutes are...and so do a bunch of people in Scotland), I watch other entertainers from all over the world do their work, and I went to my own work that night and felt the influence of what I saw... and the most important thing I learned...are you ready?...I learned a lot about what the word Cabaret meant to me.
NOT all, people...but a lot.
Sounds so lordy, I know, but it is true.
NOW...there is going to more lordiness to have been forewarned.
And next most important thing that I learned was that I wanted to evolve and grow.
Yes, like a friggen flower.
I don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing over and over again...I want to move forward.
I love Phyllis Diller...I think she was hysterical and most certainly groundbreaking...and probably she liked her life just fine...but she wore the same outfit and wig for 50 years.
I wonder...I wonder if she wanted to evolve...or if she even thought about it...this thought  has given me more than a bit of pause.
Maybe not...again, she might have been totally happy with her work...but what if she wasn’t?
Have I said this before to you?
Maybe I have...but, I gotta is too cloudy outside for me to look back over my, again, stay with me...
So, I have not done many big, shiny solo gigs in TO over the last two years and have dedicated myself to touring my tried and true work (which I am SO thankful to have...over 50 pieces in my book...almost 5 full shows that I have tested and shaped in front of 100’s of people...thank you, universe) which was always the goal... AS WELL as write and developing new shows from the ground up....using and discovering different ways or working, collaborating, storytelling and creating.
When I simply needed to sing or I would just burst I would do a gig at Maggie and Heather’s wonderful Pubaret...and, again, I toured a lot, which was also wonderful.
So, in that way I kept current and in touch with a crowd...which I think is super important. ALSO, there was the yearly blessing of the amazing Global Cabaret at Soulpepper... I am always so thankful when they ask me to come...and I get to immerse myself in artists and singing for a concentrated couple of weeks every October. THERE was also the wonderful and new collaboration with Gavin Crawford that started this year! I really wanted another new focus to be working and collaborating with other like minded artists...and working with Gavin has been a treat...a true gift. That dude is a genius...and I learned a lot from him as well.

Gavin: If I am singing you are doing an impersonation of a star.
Me: No.
Gavin: Yes.
Me: No.

And on and on till I worked on Idina Menzel with him. 
I had a blast working with Gavin...and I loved being onstage with him. That effer works hard. AND I LOVE THAT!
And he wishes that when he adds something new to a piece we are working on that I don't make us go all the way back to the beginning...every time. But life is strange...

And last year, jeepers...was it only last year?... I began work on the show I call, Full Dark...which has been a journey and a half for me...three workshops and one workshop run in 8 months.
This has been some of the most challenging work I have done.
At one point I walked offstage after a performance of the show during the workshop run and this was the conversation that occured between me and George:

Me: This show is so fucking hard. When will it sit in the pocket...when will it get easier???
George: You know...I think if you continue to do the show the way you are doing it now, it will never be easy. You can do it this way and it would be perfect...but it will never be easy.

AND THEN I went and cried in the bathroom for a half hour.
I told George and Brendan Healy that I didn’t want to do it again...and then...after a long while...I pulled the binder off the shelf and looked at it another way.
The whole time I worked on that piece I was still learning...learning how to tell the story that I wrote...learning what world it will live in...learning how to put across the songs that I picked...learning what creation was like when you got to work with ALL of the musicians from the very beginning...from the very first day.
THAT was a gift and a blessing.
I am so thankful for my continuing residency at Buddies in Bad Times and also for the workshop run that Sheridan College sponsored. Brendan Healy has been a real champion for me... and he has opened my eyes to a lot of new ideas. I feel very fortunate to have a home there.
AND this month, I will continue work on Full Dark with my first director and dramaturg...WHO  KNEW I could be so effing fancy...and...well, I don’t wanna be coy, but there are some exciting things in the works for that piece.
It has been wild to work on something and walk away and come back and work and walk away again. The distance makes things SO clear.
Who knew!?
Usually, we get to do a show once or twice and we are just so happy when we don’t eff it have this chance to keep working on a story? IT IS MAGIC, people.
And here we are!
So, one day, I had this idea.
And I wrote a bit of it, I worked on it with the awesome Brendan Wall (he plays one million instruments), we put it up at Soulpepper’s Saturday Night Cabaret Series...and I loved it, I truly had a blast...and the audience seemed to dig it.
I love Prince.
I have loved him since 1984.
AND so, I wrote a cabaret called, Prince and Me.
Simple, yes?


Now, don’t freak...I know Prince is not everyone’s bag...You may not love Prince...but I believe that you don’t have to love him to come out and see this new creation. There ARE two songs in it I have performed before...OH of the things that I forgot to mention in this musing is SOMETIMES I work on the same song in different shows over a period of time because it has not found it’s home yet...I will sing it over and over again attached to a different story, in a totally different arrangement, until it finds it’s place...and it almost always does...well, two songs have found their home, I think.
I had a very straightforward goal when I started this project... I wanted to start with a simple story, and a specific musical theme...and see where it would take me.
Well... it took me to Jimi Hendrix, also back to a bar that is NOW called Filthy McNasty’s in Oakville (when I went there back in the 80’s the name wasn’t so straight forward), it took me to the walk-in closet in my college apartment where I ate an entire Sara Lee caked and cried my heart out, to the Odeon Theatre in Hamilton with my best friend where I saw Purple Rain for the first time, to Paisley Park in Minnesota where Prince was playing a concert for 100 close friends (true story), to Joni Mitchell, to the Woolworth at the corner of Upper Sherman and Fennell in the Rocky Horror Picture show.
Oh, as Suess said, the places you’ll go, people.
And I went to all of these places with a boundless joy that suprised even me.
Who knew?
Yesterday, with the awesome pianist/composer/musical director Steve Thomas added into the mix, we started to tackle the new stuff I added to the show.
And in 16 days we will preview it at the Global Cabaret.
So, all is as it should be.
I would like to thank that young person for asking those questions.
I hadn’t stopped and looked around in a while.
And if you read this far, GOD BLESS YOU!!
BUY a ticket! Oh, we will have such a fun time....

Here is a little VIDEO about the show...and the deets are:

Sharron Matthews: Prince and Me
at the Global Cabaret Festival
October 24th at 8:30pm
October 25th at 3:45pm
Get tickets at

P.S. In 2015, I have tours taking me out east and out west (touring with Mary Walsh!), and I am taking my show to Mexico...YES, MEXICO in the winter....among other projects I am working on.
So, cabaret is keeping this gal happily busy as shit.
Thanks to the universe, again.
Check out my website for the touring dates with Mary in March and April!

No comments: