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First Thursdays feature captivating cabaret

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Members of Outreach Cabaret perform at the First Thursdays festival on Thursday evening at the Fine Arts Plaza. David Brinson Buy Photos

The IU's Outreach Cabaret initiative danced, sang and sweated to the tune from a live keyboard at the Fine Arts Plaza as one of four headlining acts for September's First Thursdays festival. 

“We want to go into communities and help them share their stories in whatever artistic expression they like,” said Katie Swaney, a junior and group member of the cabaret.

A common theme throughout the festival was inclusion and the different ways cultures tell stories. The first song performed was “Brand New You,” a song originally sung and performed by Aaron Simon Gross. It was a jazzy and vibrant song, and like the other performances of the festival, encouraged a considerable amount of audience participation. Several spectators described the show as “light” and “upbeat.” 

All six performers managed to express their own style, personality and energy as they sang to the piano being played. As they came off the stage, sweat coated each of their smiling faces. 

“That was fun,” Swayne said after the performance. “We were a little nervous before, a little bit stressed, but once we got out there and saw all our peers supporting us, that went away.”

Ethan St. Germain, IU student, her fellow group member, disagreed. 

“One might say it got more stressful when I saw my peers and all those people out there, but you know, it’s OK,” St. Germain said. “It was awesome.”

An initiative of the IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, Outreach Cabaret will spend October traveling to Indiana towns including Huntingburg and Nashville, promoting performing arts as a resource for human connection and creative expression. Richard Roland, the director of IU’s musical theater program, leads the six students who make up the group, who began their rehearsing just two weeks ago. 

“We’re already close,” Swaney said. “Everyone likes to perform and play, and when we started doing these songs, I think people’s fun personalities came out and it made it really easy to connect.”

According to both the performers and their director, the mini show was just a sample of their capabilities. 

“We got a long way to go,” Roland said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, though. Eventually, it’s going to be a hour-long cabaret.”

Although they dressed in street clothes for the festival, soon the group will be going all out.

“It’s a show without a through line," Roland said, laughing."It’s an assortment of songs. There’s a lot of costumes and singing and wine involved, but we’re not going to do the wine. We’re a dry campus here at IU."

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