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EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TALENT SHOWCASE…
but were afraid to ask…
What follows is a cohesive, detailed description and analysis of everything involved in doing a Seth’s Talent Showcase. You will be quizzed afterwards. (Just kidding. This isn’t a classroom.)
WHAT IS A SHOWCASE?
A showcase is an evening where you get to perform a 10 minute cabaret set. Usually 6 people are performing in an evening; each brings part of the audience, so there usually is a full house. It is great for getting your feet wet in the cabaret world! It is also great for people who never get to perform in the city for their friends here. Or people who haven’t performed in awhile to get a reminder of WHY they’re in this crazy business we call show. It is also good for workshopping a full-length cabaret in pieces. Finally, above all, it is essential for a performer to be comfortable in his/her own skin on stage; cabaret is the best forum for garnering experience while getting to pick songs one has a distinct connection to, regardless of context.
I’m happy to announce we are back in person as of May 2021 at Don’t Tell Mama! I produced 44 lovely virtual showcases from April 2020 to February 2021, and you can watch them on my livestream YouTube channel: here.
WHAT MAKES SETH’s TALENT SHOWCASE SPECIAL?
Unlike many showcases, you only have to bring SIX people. That’s right — only SIX people. Most are 10-12. ALSO, in most showcases you have to PAY the PIANIST b/c the producer keeps the $$. However, since I am the producer and the pianist, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY THE PIANIST. You only bring SIX PEOPLE. That’s it. Also unlike most, I DO NOT make you pay up front. You get the chance to perform, and 20 minutes the day of at the tech to rehearse for ZERO DOLLARS if you get SIX PEOPLE to come.
Another special thing about the showcase is that I EMCEE it. I ask everyone for quirky fun facts (more on that later), and open and close the show to relieve the pressure of warming up the crowd and leaving them on a bang! I’ve been doing these for 15 years now, and I’d like to think I’m pretty amusing.
HOW DOES THE BRINGING SIX PEOPLE WORK EXACTLY?
The audience should reserve via Don’t Tell Mama, like any normal show there – make sure they know to reserve for Seth’s Talent Show and that that is the name of the show they are seeing so they don’t go into the wrong room. It is very important your audience reserves so that DTM knows how many waiters to staff for the show, but it has nothing to do with me knowing you have 6 people coming. Instead, when the audience arrives, my personal house manager will give them a program, and check them off on the list by your name. At the end of the show, the list is given to me. If you don’t have 6 people, you pay the difference ($17 per person) — so if you get 1 person, you owe $85; 2 people, you owe $68; 3, you owe $51; 4, you owe $34; 5, you owe $17. If you have 6 or more, you pay NOTHING! If you bring zero people, you only owe $100 because I cap the amount people owe at $100 because I know how hard it is to be a starving artist.
ISN’T THAT PAY TO PLAY?
An awful lot of people respond that they don’t want to “pay to perform”, and I completely get that. I do NOT consider this you paying to perform. I consider this me helping you to produce your own mini-cabaret set. I keep my showcases as cheap as possible, but the audience coming (or you paying the difference) pays for the following: the midtown venue, the lighting/sound person, the servers, the pianist (me), the producer (also me), the emcee (me, too), the director (me again), the stage manager (sadly me), the house manager/videographer (not me) and video editor (surprise: it’s me). For all of these services at the highest of quality, you are getting a bargain. So don’t think of it as “pay to play” think of it as investing in yourself. This is a contract between you and me, with the deal clearly spelled out. But you don’t have to take my word for the experience, as there are over 3,000 singers who have participated, and you probably know one!
WHAT IS THE PRICE FOR THE AUDIENCE?
$20 cover + $20 minimum (which must include 2 drinks). Same for many cabaret venues and any shows at Don’t Tell Mama. The cover/drinks are CASH ONLY. I regret that the drinks are so expensive, but there is nothing I can do about it as it is the cost of doing a show seconds from Broadway. Please make your audience aware that not paying the full check and not leaving a tip is UNACCEPTABLE. For your convenience, I have asked for a price list, so that your audience can be aware of what they’re going to owe: sodas/juices $7, Poland spring/Pelingrino bottled water $7; beers $10; wines $13; scotch $11-$15; vodka $11-$15; gin $11-$15; tequila $11-$15; cocktails $12-$17. Please note that as of spring 2022, if audiences get drinks under $10, they will either have to pay a total of $20 minimum anyway or order food, as well. Again, this is club policy, not mine. FYI, the food is very good and ranges from small things to full meals: $9-$22.
I care about my singers, so I cap what people owe at $100. However, Don’t Tell Mama has a 15 person minimum per performance. If we do not get at least 15 people to attend, there will be an extra fee. To this end, if there are fewer than 15 people in the audience, singers who don’t provide at least 3 people, will split the extra fee. This rarely happens, and the best way to avoid owing more is by having at least 3 guests. But as I said, I will never charge you more than $100 and will take the financial hit myself if I have to.
CAN PEOPLE UNDER 21 COME?
Yes. They just cannot drink alcohol, but there is no age restriction.
WHEN DO I HAVE TO CONFIRM BY?
ONE MONTH before. If you cancel after the ONE MONTH, NO MATTER THE REASON (illness, family emergency, etc), you have to either: 1. Find someone to take your place who will be accountable for the audience members OR 2. Pay me an $80 cancellation fee. *However, post-pandemic, I will allow anyone who is sick to earn back their money in a future show given that sick people are not allowed to enter the building.*
Please take the contract seriously, as Don’t Tell Mama takes its contract with me seriously! And also keep in mind that you are getting a great deal. Most showcases are far more expensive, and I promise mine are super fun!!!!! (and warrant a lot of!!!)
It is important you have your friends make reservations with the club so they know how many people to expect. The club likes them to be doubly aware that it’s cash only and the room opens at 6:15 so not everyone shows up at 7:05 with only credit cards. They do NOT have to tell the club they are there to see you. That is separate. My house manager will check in your audience the night of. (I know I reiterated this twice, but someone asks every week, so it’s justified redundancy!)
WHAT SHOULD I SING?
I am happy to create the set for you in a private session, or recommend songs in a repertoire coaching session. However, if you are self-sufficient, that is also cool. I HIGHLY suggest that people do song sets. The two songs should contrast and complement each other, while coming together to form some sort of theme or story…
Some previous choices: “Isn’t This Better” into “Bring on the Men” –> Soft, sad ballad about breaking up into a fun, fierce uptempo about sleeping around as a consequence.
“Times Like This” into “A Trip to the Library” –> Contemplative, comic ballad about being alone and loving one’s dog into uptempo about finding true love at the library.
Here’s a well thought out set by Nadia Hudson. And here’s Josh Meredith in a full set to add a guy’s perspective: here.
WHAT IS PATTER?
Patter ties the songs together. I ask that everyone come up with some patter b/c this makes the set more like a story. You only patter between the songs. I have confirmed from many audience members, that this makes the audience enjoy the show more, feel more connected to the performer, etc. Otherwise it becomes more of a recital, and less like a cabaret or theatre, in general. The point of performing is to tell a story, and get the audience to connect and emote!
Good patter is succinct, but cute and funny and also un-googlable. Do not give a history lesson on the song – the program will tell the audience where it’s from, and they can google it later if they have interest. Also, it is not a strong choice to mention that you are singing or mention the words “song” or “cabaret.” Don’t say “that last song makes me…” just start after the ellipse. It is important to be YOURSELF — to show your personality. I am happy to coach patter, as well as songs.
Thus, the patter connects the songs, shows the theme w/o overtly saying it, and also could include a funny anecdote or two. Playing to the audience is key b/c it’s an intimate space. Treating the audience like your best friends is great, b/c then they’ll feel connected and moved, etc.
QUIRKY FUN FACTS
One week before the show, I’ll email out to collect songs, facts and video requests. Examples of quirky fun facts, to be used as introductions for the performers, are as follows:
Our next performer:
has an odd fear of letting go of helium balloons
loves to watch Spongebob Squarepants
AND no one has ever seen her real hair color since she was 9
The fun facts make for a very casual, relaxing ambiance. It also gives the audience more chances to laugh and enjoy themselves. I ask for 5-6 in THIRD PERSON, and I’ll pick the funniest ones, and riff a little (or a lot) as well…
The tech rehearsal is usually the day of the show, 4-6ish. Everyone will get a 20 minute slot when they can rehearse their songs twice and do a quick coaching on the patter. (If you have a work conflict, please specify you need a late rehearsal when I ask for song choices 2 weeks before the show.) It is important to use levels for your set — it’s better to not do the same position for songs twice in a row — there’s a stool, there’s a piano — there are different areas of the stage — it is fine to move around during an uptempo, but remember you’re going to have to watch out for the mic cord, all of these issues will be addressed at tech.
We will no longer run the bow, but it’s very easy. I thank people before I do my last song. I do the last song — everyone comes back out; I announce your name, one at a time, then my name. Everyone comes on stage, we grab hands, group bow twice… and OFF! And while I’m at the off point, it is imperative that you LEAVE THE ROOM after the show and not stay talking to your guests, so they’ll pay and leave faster. DO NOT STAY IN THE ROOM AFTER THE SHOW.
WHAT TO WEAR
Dress nice, but not super nice. Don’t be in ripped, schleppy jeans, but you don’t have to wear a prom dress, either. Overall be comfortable!
Please invite everyone you know, but also feel free to invite agents and casting directors. INDUSTRY people do NOT have to pay cover OR have drinks. If they DO have drinks, they have to pay for them, but there is no minimum for industry folk. (You can make the choice to pay for your own industry person’s drinks, as well.) Just put their names on the industry list at the tech. (Industry people only includes agents, casting directors and producers.)
I only use performers that I know or know people I know who can vouch for them, so the quality of the showcases are very good.
SHEET MUSIC IN ADVANCE
Please email me PDFs of sheet music in the right key by the Friday before the show. Please double check this. I can transpose at rehearsal, but it will mean you probably can only run the song once. I will print everything out and be binder ready for rehearsal.
If you feel like having only 20 minutes the day of the show is frazzled and harried, I am always available for private coachings at my normal rate ($100/hour, $50/half hour). I am happy to coach the songs, coach the patter, find material, record the accompaniment for rehearsal purposes, and of course run through the songs as many times as you like.
Like I’ve mentioned, the showcases have gotten great responses from participants AND audience. The booking director at Don’t Tell Mama frequently comes to them, and says they are quite enjoyable. He’s also remarked on the incredible talent level. So, in conclusion, I think that Seth’s Talent Showcase is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.
Speaking of audience – please make sure your audience understands it is improper to talk or text during the show. Also, please make sure your audience brings enough cash to cover the cover and the drinks and the tip. Please make sure your audience is aware they are expected to tip. You would think these things should go without saying, but I have found that audiences not accustomed to attending cabaret do not realize them, and it is really unconscionably rude and disrespectful to everyone involved when they misbehave. ALSO, it is important that your audience comes ON TIME, preferably early. Feel free to tell your audience the show starts at 6:30 or 6:45. Late comers force the show to start late, and also disrupt the performances and sometimes the video taping.
For those of you who have done a regular set, I offer extended sets – that is you sing 4 songs and bring 12 people (and owe at most $200). I only open this up to people who have gone through showcases before or come with a very solid recommendation, b/c if someone flakes, I am out $200. The extended sets are a great way to workshop a full show, as well as a great evening for serious industry invitation.
VIDEOING YOUR SET
In addition included in the price, I will provide you with a video of your set – edited and ready to upload on the YouTube! The videos are recorded in HD 1080p. Please note that since the video is included and inexpensive, sometimes it is not perfect. Servers may get in the way, the audience may talk during your set (even though I’ve asked the performers to remind them they shouldn’t) and the camera might get fuzzy if the view gets disrupted. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing I can do about these situations, as that is what happens when you try to film a cabaret, but I did just get a fancy new tripod which has helped. After the show, you will receive an MP4 file via WeTransfer.com. I do not give you a DVD or post it for you. Please note the files are rather large, and you ideally should download them on a computer and then back them up to a separate hard drive.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Please pick your songs before the week of. Please learn your lyrics well enough that you don’t go up on them. It is embarrassing to you, and to me if you do. So if you need more rehearsal, please don’t be cheap and hire me for a private session. If you do go up, please do not turn to me and act like it – just start from wherever you want, and I will jump to that point.
Finally, to avoid owing me money, you should make sure you have 5 people coming — that means you should try to confirm 10 b/c 50% flake! And if 10 come, then you get on the gold star list, which is what I use to fill last minute, pre-paid for slots. Start marketing the show NOW. Do not wait to the week before. If you think there’s any chance you won’t have 5 people, please bring cash or be prepared to Venmo before you leave the building so I don’t have to chase you don’t for the next few weeks.
Please don’t hesitate to ask. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org