25 August 2022

Top theatrical talent to perform at Tuggeranong

| Sally Hopman
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Legendary Australian cabaret performer and mentor to young artists, Queenie van de Zandt. Young Canberra creatives, who have just completed her course, will take to the Tuggeranong Arts Centre stage this Sunday night for a special event. Photo: Supplied.

So what do you get when you put 20 or so talented Canberra folk together, give them a word, and tell them they have to put on a cabaret show – based on that word – by the end of the week at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre?

It helps if you have spent the previous week working with one of Australia’s leading cabaret performers, Queenie van de Zandt, herself Canberra born and bred.

The performance this Sunday night, 28 August, Come to the Cabaret, is the culmination of a workshop the Canberra actors, singers, musicians and generally talented folk have just completed with Queenie, the Canberra Winter Workshop Graduate Performance. It showcases the work they have done the previous week, learning about the art of cabaret – and all those factors that make up putting on such a show.

Queenie, who has been performing as well as conducting these workshops for more than 20 years, said she was approached by the Tuggeranong Arts Centre to do one in Canberra.

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“They’d heard about the workshops so they invited me down here to do one,” she said.

While Queenie is paid for her expertise, the students can take part for free.

“It’s an amazing investment into Canberra’s performers,” she said.

“Although Canberra has a strong amateur theatre community here, there doesn’t seem to be such a strong professional one so the sad thing is that these performers have to leave Canberra.

“There is a fantastic talented market to tap into here, there’s no reason Canberra shouldn’t have its own professional company.”

Queenie said not only was the troupe responsible for writing, creating and performing in the show, they were also encouraged to learn behind-the-scenes techniques, including how to market the event and get people through the doors.

One of the performers, Canberra journalist and stand-up comedian, Sarah Ison, said all the performers auditioned for places in the workshop before the best were selected by Queenie.

“The idea was to bring together everything we had learned in the first week of the course – in seven days,” Sarah said. “Usually putting a show together like this takes months. We just had a week,” she laughed.

“For me, as a comic, I do stand-up. For all of us, it was just a matter of taking in what everyone could do and morph them into a story. That’s why we did auditions, so they could see what we all could do. It was amazing to see what a range of talent was here.”


A journalist in her other life, Sarah Ison will bring her stand-up comedic talents to Sunday night’s show at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Photo: Supplied.

How hard was it for a group of creative, smart and talented people to work together in such a short period of time on the one project?

“There were times when we had to say there is really only one conversation going on here,” Sarah said. “Someone would get an idea and we’d all talk about it – but then we couldn’t hear anything.”

Sunday night’s show, like all good cabarets, will start with a group opening and finish with everyone again on stage. In between, the various artists will showcase their talents.

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Artists performing on Sunday night include Queenie, Sarah, Lee J.Collier, Sarah Louise Owens, Miriam Slater, Deborah O’Toole, Shawnah Cady/Mad B, Katie Cole, Ebony Gagel, Alex Chambers, Harpier Stanier, Ylaria Rogers, Natalie Russell, Marcel Cole, Tina Meir and Chelsea Heaney.

So, “put down the knitting, the book and the broom, it’s time to hear the music play … life is a cabaret old chum, life is a cabaret”.

Tickets for Sunday night’s performance at 8pm are available on the Tuggeranong Arts Centre website.

There are also some tickets left for Queenie’s own show, Choose Your Own Adventure, also at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, on Saturday, 27 August, at 7:30 pm. Bookings are available online.

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