The backbone of student organization’s performances

by Rachel Trombi / Beacon Correspondent • October 7, 2015

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The Cabaret is mostly staffed by students.
The Cabaret is mostly staffed by students.

When student organizations and troupes put on performances or host Open Mic nights, a common venue choice is the Cabaret.

One of Emerson’s black box theatres, the Cab is a multipurpose room in which students meet and perform. With a small moveable stage and its own audio and light booth in the back, the area can be set up with rows of chairs or just left as an open space for students to use.

This location is one of the few performance spaces on campus that is free for students and faculty to reserve or use. It is available to all students, departments, and organizations on campus, according to Josh Hamlin, director of the Campus Center. Reservations can be made on Spacebook, their scheduling website. He said those who rent out the Cab have free access not only to the room itself but also all the equipment within it.

“It’s probably one of the best, most accessible student spaces,” sophomore Jesse Buchter, an employee there, said. “Pretty much anyone can rent out the Cab. A lot of students don’t realize that.”

Opened nearly 20 years ago, the Cab was first a space used for classes during the day and performances at night, according to Hamlin. Seven years ago, Hamlin said they were able to identify the area as a function space without regular classes, so they could open it up for more of the students' needs.

The Cab is also the largest multifunction and performance venue at the Campus Center, located in The Little Building, and is open to student reservations. According to Hamlin, it’s already almost booked solid for this semester.

“We have such a high demand internally,” Hamlin said, which is why the Cab is only available to Emerson students and not to outside groups.

Last year alone, 250 events were held in the Cab, according to Hamlin. These ranged from comedy troupe shows, to theatre productions, to Open Mic nights and concerts.

“It’s very versatile,” Ben Mueller, a sophomore visual and media arts major and technician at the Cab, said.

He said students can use the space not only for performing, but also for filming, rehearsing, and hosting organization meetings.

Mueller is one of 23 Cab staff members, said Hamlin, all of whom are either technicians or event managers. Because Hamlin is the the only full-time faculty member to oversee use of the space, it’s run primarily by students.

Mueller’s job as a tech includes a variety of tasks, and he said many of these allow him to use his knowledge of his major.

“Cab techs are basically there to help you do whatever it is you want to do,” he said, “whether that’s running lights and sound for you, or just opening doors for you, or setting up chairs and setting up the room how you want it.”

Mueller said that once the shows are over, employees are also responsible for breaking the room back down again to its standard setup.

When productions are involved, Cab techs work with the project’s lighting designer, sound designer, and stage manager to provide them with the right cues and sets.

Students of any major can apply for the job, and it offers flexible hours. The staff can sign onto the projects that either attract them or coincide with their availability, according to Mueller.

Mueller said there are a lot of different abilities and interests among the staff members at the Cab. Because each tech can choose the events they work, they can find one that is best tailored to those interests and abilities.

“I really wanted to use my tech experience because I’m really into audio and live mixing, and I figured I could learn more about lighting and staging,” Mueller said, who applied for the tech position.

Buchter said he started working there because of his interest in doing theatre tech. The visual and media arts major said he wanted to continue doing lights and audio for performances, since he was not pursuing those activities academically.

Within the tech staff are different levels of ability, and the more experienced employees gain as they work, the higher status they can achieve. According to Dean Covert, a visual and media arts major and lead technician at the Cabaret, there are three ranks. This ensures that the technicians have the appropriate knowledge, depending on the event they’re facilitating.

"These levels are in place to provide the Cabaret staff with learning goals," he said.

From comedy troupe performances, to stand up, to battling bands, you can catch it at the Cab.

“There’s really something for everyone,” Mueller said, “[if] you’re attending an event, there’s gonna be something at the Cab you like.”