Reflections on Le Chat Noir

I'd like to follow the previous posts up with a little information on the origin of the cabaret and why I include it in the title of my show. The astrology part is pretty obvious, but the inclusion of 'cabaret' has relevance worth unpacking as well. This is especially true insofar as it happens to be part of a fringe festival! Here's why....

The first cabaret establishment, Le Chat Noir, was opened in the Montmartre district of Paris, France in 1881 by painter Rudolph Salis. The name, meaning "the black cat" has various origin stories surrounding it - for example, one centers on an Edgar Poe tale, another claims that Salis named it after a stray cat he rescued from the streets, and others focus on the symbolic or iconic aspects (wherein the black cat is said to represent subversion and sexual freedom). The purpose of Le Chat Noir was to provide a community for artists - musicians, writers, etc., who were disenchanted with the growing materialism of generally, and artistic elitism specifically - in the sense there was a desire among this group of revolutionaries to experience and share art that's free of the dictates of both the State (via endorsements, patronage), as well as the University (via canonizaton, legitimization).

To me, Le Chat Noir represents a golden moment of communal desire for artistic freedom and purpose. As cabarets spread across France, Germany, and then to North America around the turn of the 20th century, it seems the fertile tension between 'high-brow' and 'low-brow' expression acquiesced to the latter, as it began to cater more to indulgence and carnality as ends in themselves. (During the Weimar Republic in Germany, however, cabarets - 'kabarette' - were rather fiercely political in form and function.)

So what does it have to do with Cabaret Libra and Fringe festivals? Well, when the show's concept was coming together for me, it was during the para-2016 election months, and I was feeling an even stronger pull than usual towards the act of making art not just for art's sake, but as an agent of social and personal change. As I regarded my creative friends whose work seemed to take on a new vitality under the pressure of a potentially dark collective future, it occurred to me that today's Le Chat Noir cabaret- and/or perhaps kabbarett - culture, metaphorically at least, can be seen as happening now largely in the postmodern and unprecedented mode of non-locality (i.e., internet, social media).

But we are also social creatures, who on occasion at least, crave the companionship of real, live interactions. So when opportunities like fringe festivals (or any avenues for creative expression not entirely tethered to commerce, tradition, or corporate aesthetics) come along, the potential to be truly moved by art is enhanced by shared space as well as shared experience. Thus, my decision to include 'cabaret' in the title - as opposed to say, 'Café Libra,' or maybe even 'Exposition Libra,' stems in part from my desire to reference a historical phenomenon as well as a contemporary challenge: how to engage with one another in a way that is entertaining, communal, and purposeful - in the spirit of hope and courage.

I hope you can make it out to the Boulder International Fringe Festival next week. I can't wait to share & explore the diverse and marvelous performances!!


Bruno, Guido. 1916. The Cabaret: Its Origin, Its Rise and Its Decline. The Blue Mountain Project: Historic Avant-Guard Periodicals for Digital Research.

BURROWS, CANDICE S., D.M.A. Cabaret: A Historical and Musical Perspective of a Struggling Era. (2010)

Mullins, Rebecca. That World of Somewhere In Between: The History of Cabaret and the Cabaret Songs of Richard Pearson Thomas, Volume I (2013)

Yachinich, Katherine Anne, "The Culture and Music of American Cabaret" (2014).Music Honors Theses. 5.

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