2014-06-26 / Schools

Cabaret class prepares young talent for the stage

By Cary Ginell


CLASS ACT—Joshua Finkel, center, the leader of a six-week cabaret class, and his accompanist, Ben Ginsberg, with students from left, Allison Martinez, Zoe Reed, Kylie Vincent and Laney Panico. CLASS ACT—Joshua Finkel, center, the leader of a six-week cabaret class, and his accompanist, Ben Ginsberg, with students from left, Allison Martinez, Zoe Reed, Kylie Vincent and Laney Panico. Beginning a career in theater is a daunting prospect for many youngsters. Where does one start? Singing lessons? Acting lessons? School theater programs?

One option that combines all three of these is Joshua Finkel’s six-week cabaret class. In the course, Los Angeles-based Finkel uses a variety of creative techniques to teach his students the basic building blocks they need to put together their own cabaret acts, which they then perform for an audience at the end of the six weeks.

At the culmination of the most recent session, five of Finkel’s students will present “Girl Talk” tonight, Thurs., June 26, at the Mermaid Tavern in Thousand Oaks.

Finkel is kinetic energy personified, always animated, always encouraging, critiquing each small detail of the students’ performances in a constructive, nurturing way.


STAGE PRESENCE—Zoe Reed takes part in Joshua Finkel’s cabaret class. STAGE PRESENCE—Zoe Reed takes part in Joshua Finkel’s cabaret class. The acts he has the students build are stories from their own lives, which puts them at ease since each is more comfortable playing herself than an unfamiliar character.

“This is the first time I’ve done anything like this,” said Allison Martinez, 13, during a rehearsal break. “It teaches me how to break down my act and look at every little line and just kind of see what that means. Right now, we’re doing it in terms of our own lives, but you can do this with any character you are given in theater.”

Laney Panico, also 13, is the youngest daughter of Paul Panico, a familiar performer on Ventura County stages and the founder of Panic! Productions, an amateur theater company based in Thousand Oaks.

“ My act is about me and my sisters and how we all act around each other,” she said. “It kind of expresses how I feel with the drama and situations of my life.”

Finkel told Laney to portray her sisters as well as herself as they pop in and out of certain situations during her act.

Kylie Vincent, 14, said she’s performed in local shows but this is her first time doing cabaret.

“It helps me find out who I am as a performer and to explore my own options. I want to do musical theater as a future career, and this will definitely help me with working with lyrics, going to auditions, using a microphone and anything else I would need.”

For 13-year-old Zoe Reed, the difference between doing theater and creating a cabaret act is that “you get to communicate with the audience and be personal with them instead of pretending you’re a different person in a different place.”

It also teaches a performer how to respond to the audience.

“You’re right there with them and you can communicate with them and show them who you really are,” Zoe said.

Jade McGlynn, 12, will round out tonight’s bill.

The first two classes in Finkel’s cabaret course involve having the students explore the story of their own lives.

“It’s always based on their current truth,” he said. “I teach them how to put together a daily journal, and whatever they are thinking goes onto the paper, so they realize what they want to talk about and what numbers to build around.

“We do song exercises around how to build specialty material. Then I teach them how to use rhyming dictionaries and they lay out their cabaret songbook.”

The students use songs with familiar tunes, such as “Do Re Mi,” and write new lyrics that relate to their lives and their act.

After the class is over, the students can take the act to auditions and update it with new material whenever they please.

For these aspiring young performers, creating a cabaret act is an ideal way to get one’s feet wet in the world of musical theater.

The Mermaid Tavern is at 1345 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Seating with dinner is at 6 p.m. The show starts at 7:30.

For reservations, call (805) 777-7418.

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