"...one little did...", Jennifer's first original
cabaret, debuted at a Women's Work, Women's Words theater series in
Washington, DC in the Spring of 2001. It received a terrific response
from the audiences at those first performances and a positive review
from the Washington Post. The show was presented twice more in the Washington,
DC area in as many years to full houses and equal enthusiasm.
In November 2002, Jennifer pursued two engagements that came to
fruition, and with them a much-expanded opportunity: Allegheny College
offered the show a spot on their Centerstage Series; and Women’s Services,
Inc., a violence and domestic abuse shelter, asked if it would be
possible to have the show as part of their 25th anniversary celebration.
Both organizations are in Meadville, PA, where Jennifer grew up, and
so she rallied her associates there to bring the two together. A residency
took shape involving groups from the college, the shelter, and a few
others in the community. In the end, the residency spanned four days
with eight workshops in eight different venues, a half dozen vocal
coachings and a performance! To create the workshops, Jennifer drew
equally from her two professional lives - as singer/actress and organizational
consultant and facilitator. She hoped that the show material would
prove to be a creative catalyst and provide an innovative approach
for working on substantive issues, but had never put her hopes to
the test before this. Here are some of the things that happened in
We did a session with the Allegheny Department of Dance
and their Middle School Arts Program where 80 kids showed us what
power looked like through dance and theater. As their perspectives
widened, their concept of what constitutes "power" transcended the
tangibles of money, guns and authority figures to settle into the
intangibles of friendships, dreams, and self advocacy. And
we thought, "Huh."
We ran a retreat for the staff and board of Women's Services, Inc.
that centered on how to help victims retain their ability to make
choices from disadvantaged positions. We also worked with finding
the positive impact of arts and media and their use as a tool in
the services provided by the shelter. As we took the group through
processes involving storytelling, creative writing, and music, the
excitement level in the room grew palpable and the counselors crowded
around to collect the materials we had brought And
we thought, "Wow."
We ran master classes for the Allegheny College
Music Department and the local Senior High School music program. The
kids were eager to sing for us, had tons of questions, and wanted
to hear all the details of our particular path from high school and
college to where we are today. The primary voice faculty at the college
wrote, "You knocked a couple of my students off center, which was
a really good thing - they immediately made faster progress."
we thought, "Yes!"
We did a workshop for the Domestic Violence Support Group from
Women’s Services, Inc. Like in the story on The Concept page, we
started with a woman in a song and we talked about how to move forward
and make decisions in the face of adversity. The women brought their
own examples of literature and music that exemplified power and
wove their own stories through our discussion. Together, we actually
created a web of resources to expand their options when they found
themselves backed into a corner or feeling helpless. In the end,
a woman who could not even bring herself to talk throughout the
afternoon, came up to us and whispered a tearful, "thank you." And we didn’t know how to express our thoughts.
So, where does this lead
To the organization of Plunge! A Cabaret Concept! The possibilities
of the program are endless, but here’s what we know:
There is a place for art as more than entertainment. Art can sometimes
reach around words and access our instincts and emotions. It allows
our interactions to be more engaging, honest and complete.
There is a growing movement in higher education to connect to
community service. We believe this connection benefits everyone
involved and we see a unique way to add to it.
People use multiple intelligences. Using music and theater, we
can tap into emotional, social and kinesthetic intelligences. This
helps us to do real and meaningful work in sometimes difficult areas;
and also brings people from all experiences and personalities together
on equal footing so that they may fully contribute to the process.
We have a particular set of skills that combine so uniquely in
this program. We are experienced, professional performing artists
with love and knowledge of music and theater that speaks to the
modern era; we have significant leadership skills and backgrounds;
and we are trained and certified facilitators focusing in the arenas
of communication and leadership.
Plunge! A Cabaret Concept is what we’ve built to bring all these ideas
together. We are tremendously excited about the program and the work
we will do within it.