Student Spotlight: Creating a Cabaret…in a Pandemic

Sept. 30, 2020

Despite the pandemic, longtime Philly Dance Fitness member Margaret Mason has managed to make her wildest dreams come true: producing and starring in her very own cabaret! With the help of instructor Kayla Babicki and a few bandmates, the 31-year-old Center City resident put together a complete virtual show that debuts this weekend at the Fringe Festival. Read on to learn how it all came together.

What prompted you to produce a show?

Margaret: I’ve been writing songs my whole life.  Over the past three years, I got more feedback from friends saying they sounded like a great fit for musical theater. So when quarantine hit, I started thinking about how to put them together into a cabaret-style piece for the Fringe Festival, which accepts submissions from any interested performers. I take Kayla’s contemporary class with Philly Dance Fitness and we’ve always worked really well together, so I asked her if she would choreograph the show for me. 

Tell us what it’s about.

It’s based on personal essays I wrote between age 17 and 29, many of them about feeling stuck in the middle between being a teenager and growing up. Parts of the show are fun and cute, other parts are serious. I wanted it to be entertaining but also honest. It’s about being who you want to be, life in general, and coming back full circle through strength and empowerment. Though it’s based on real experiences, I changed all the names, including mine. I go by the stage name of Daisy Royce. 

What’s it been like putting this together during a pandemic?

A little weird! Kayla taught me the choreography over zoom. My roommates would walk through the living room and watch as I danced to my own songs. Doing karaoke to your own songs is odd, but it worked out really well. Kayla is as passionate about it as I am, which is really exciting. Having my dance teacher choreographing my passion project is a dream.

Kayla: When Margaret asked me to choreograph for the cabaret I thought, ‘What a better time to make art than now?!’ One of her songs, “Champagne,” is actually about taking dance class. It speaks to a lot of students!

Who else is in the cast?

Just me, Kayla and the band: Robert Simmons (musical director, guitar and sound mixing), Frankie DeRosa (flute and violin), Luke Benedict (drums), Brendan McGeeHan (bass), and Reverend Chris (piano and dancer)

Kayla: We wanted as few people as possible because of the pandemic. We said if we needed any extra dancers, we were borrowing band members! We went back to basics for Chris, but his moves still look really clean and he was a great sport about it all. 

Margaret: I like picturing Chris practicing with his cats and dog! I have to say, the reason I don’t dance like a beginner is because of Beverly Holskin. Her classes have really helped me become a dancer. I feel confident to dance because of Philly Dance Fitness. 

Anything else you want to add about your experience?

Filming went amazing; a true testament to interdisciplinary art and collaboration. We were able to dance in the rain and sun, while finding a way to protect expensive microphones and equipment. I truly believe we ended up with something extraordinary and beautiful. We are beyond excited for the finished product.

I’ve always wanted to be someone confident enough to dance in front of people and write a play, and now I am. It’s fun incorporating different things I’ve picked up throughout my life into one collaboration of art.

 

Catch Margaret’s show this SaturdayThe Series of 2-Week Love Stories Cabaret airs on October 3, 2020 at 8 p.m. on Vimeo. Get tickets here.

Interview by Delaney Malloy, edited for brevity and clarity.

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