Article

Eclectic Weather: Patrick's Cabaret and Blue Table
By Kim Surkan
October 2, 2002
Patrick's Cabaret

The cabaret has been described as perhaps the most democratic form of performing arts venues; its history includes American vaudeville and variety acts, stand-up comedy shows, and open mic nights. In the Twin Cities we are blessed with a phenomenal assortment of regularly scheduled cabarets to choose from, a testament to how many writers, performing artists, and musicians live and work in the metro area.

How does one account for the continued success of these often eclectic events in Minnesota? It could be that we love a bargain - after all, the price of a single ticket offers us a chance to see many artists in action. Or maybe cabarets appeal to those of us with shorter attention spans - a sort of "channel-surfing" of the performing arts scene. But I prefer to think that Minnesotans take the same pragmatic approach to cabaret performances as we do to the weather - "You don't like this? Wait five minutes and something better will come along?"

With that in mind, here is a guide to the highlights of the current cabaret scene in the waning months of 2002. Although by no means comprehensive, it serves as a reminder of what's happening in venues you already know about, and hopefully introduces some new possibilities for catching some performing arts in the future.

Patrick's Cabaret
2nd and 3rd weekends of every month, Friday & Saturday at 8 p.m. Admission $6
3010 Minnehaha Ave So, Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 721-3595
e-mail: [email protected]
web address: www.patrickscabaret.org

Ask any veteran artist or audience member in the Twin Cities about cabarets, and inevitably the words "Patrick's Cabaret" will be the first thing you hear. Started 16 years ago by dancer and performing artist Patrick Scully, the cabaret has defied all odds in its continued success and has become a model for others locally and across the nation.

Patrick's Cabaret began in the mid-1980s when Scully took up residence in an old storefront on 24th Street in the Phillips neighborhood, just a block from I-35. Legend has it the space had at one time been a potato chip factory, and Scully reinvented it as an arts and performance space, deciding to hold monthly cabarets to offset the rent.

Patrick's made national news in 1994 after a controversial March performance by Ron Athey was cited as a reason to revoke NEA funding for performance art. The venue continued to consistently draw a strong audience base, however, and soon outgrew its original space. In the spring of '96 it was shut down by the fire marshall for not meeting code, and for a time was hosted by guest venues until money was raised to renovate the venue.

The biggest break for Patrick's came in 1999, when an anonymous donor purchased an old firehouse just off East Lake Street and gave it to the cabaret. The venue has continued to thrive ever since, and now serves as host to many different performance events in addition to the regularly scheduled cabarets.

After tirelessly curating the cabaret for fifteen years, Scully saw the venue comfortably installed in the new space and then decided to retire from his position as artistic director in 2001. The new director, Sarah Harris, has continued the regular programming, while forging new collaborations across the Twin Cities' artistic communities.

"My goal as curator is to have as many communities represented as possible," Harris says. "Of course the cabarets are open to all, but we definitely reach out to the GLBT community, communities of color, and people with disabilities. The goal of the show is to have people from a wide variety of artistic expression, but also levels of experience, so that you see very seasoned people along with people who are getting up on the stage for the first time."

Harris, who is well-known to artists all over the metro area for her curatorial work, is committed to fostering diversity and creating a sense of community at Patrick's. "I think cabarets make the arts more accessible to a wide variety of people," she says. "This is a great place for people who want to see the unexpected. It's a great way to be around people and connect with them as much as you want, or just be in that space and feel a lot of creative stuff happening."

Upcoming shows at Patrick's Cabaret:

"Week Without Violence" Cabaret - October 17, 18, & 19. 8 p.m. $6. Co-presentation with the YWCA. The peformance on October 17 will be geared toward youth and children.

"Sappho Rigolo" Cabaret - November 8 & 9. 8 p.m. $6. An annual evening showcasing women performers. Curated by Heidi Eckwall.

"Odd Couples" Cabaret - December 13 & 14. 8 p.m. $6. A cabaret designed to pair artists who normally would not work together. Curated by Sarah Harris.

Conversations at the Blue Table
5th Wednesday of the month, 8 p.m. Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408. Admission $10. 612-825-8949. www.bryantlakebowl.com

Leigh Combs loves talking to people, and in turn, people find it easy to talk to her. That simple fact is the secret behind the success of "Conversations at the Blue Table," which is a combination cabaret/talk show format at Bryant Lake Bowl that takes place whenever there are five Wednesdays in a month. Invited artists show short samples of their work, and then are interviewed by Combs in a question-and-answer session.

Combs developed her interest in interviewing through her years of experience as a radio personality at KFAI, Minneapolis' most well-known community radio station. "I think we often get to see artists do things, but we never get to talk to them," Combs explains. "The Blue Table provides a format where I can talk and interview the artists."

Describing it as "an extension of a radio talk show," Combs encourages audience participation in asking questions of the artists. "It's about breaking down that wall between performers and audience," she explains. "People really love the interview part. I remember the first time someone said to me, 'Who are your guests?' They're totally onto the idea that this is like a talk show." Forget Jay Leno - check this out!

Upcoming Blue Table show:

Wednesday, October 31. 8 p.m. $10. Featuring comedian Colleen Kruse, Triangle Park (the all-mother trio formerly known as The Brawny MotherFolkers), singer/songwriter Pablo, dancers Emily Johnson & Susan Scalf, and of course many surprises!

MN Artists