Truth… Handle It? I Feast On It.

SPARK August 5th, 2013 Performers and Producers

On Monday night, on stage, along with seven other storytellers, I told a true story to packed theater in Pacific Palisades at SPARK

On Tuesday evening, on camera, I had the distinct privilege of interviewing Al Kasha, a two-time Academy Award winning songwriter.

Today, several days later, I’m still processing what I learned from both of these nights. But in one word, it’s “Truth.”

It’s truly amazing how things line up at times, it was my first time “storytelling” and the second-half of my first time interviewing people on camera. Last week or so I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert C. Pullman and Trish Doolan, the writers of the new musical “Two Boys From Brooklyn,” which is the true story of Al and his brother Larry Kasha’s triumph over childhood adversities.

Before the camera and producers showed up I got to talk with Al, and while the shooter was more interested in keeping the questions on camera more about the upcoming show… Off camera, I asked questions that I had no idea I wanted to ask, until after Al answered them. His musical influences (Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Polka…) His take on star turns (Rodney Dangerfield, Neil Diamond…) Various performers (Sinatra, Carol King…) Artists (Pablo Picasso, Zero Mostel…) Writers (Rogers & Hammerstein, Stephen King…)

Al Kasha Interview
Tom Kiesche & Al Kasha
August 6th, 2013

Since I can remember I’ve always wondered where and how I fit into things… And lately, I’ve been doing that a lot with singing and live performances. Asking questions about what cabaret really is, or is supposed to be, or has become… Why one song or performer makes me sit up and listen, and why some tunes, vocalists and most musicals bore me to tears.

Somehow, Al Kasha answered most of that in a few sentences.

He said something like: Good theater, good acting, and good cabaret is about truth… Where most musicals are about fantasy. Sondheim is one exception, as he writes mostly two people scenes, which are mostly about the characters’ truth…

We talked about where and why cabaret started… How sadly it has become mostly known as a precious thing, that very few people care to go see. But how true cabaret started as an alternative form of entertainment that often pushed boundaries, or echoed what was going on in a society.

Recently, I discussed the very same topic with my friend and cabaret producer/director Clifford Bell. He too felt that cabaret should be and is a broad canvas, that it is just a performance venue that holds a smaller audience, and that I am not doing myself any favors by trying to define where I fit in. That I would be better served looking at a wide variety of performers like Sandra Bernhard who push perceived boundaries.

I’m still researching two names I was unfamiliar with that Al Kasha mentioned inside of our two-and-a-half-hour talk, Jacques Brel and Gilbert Becaud… And though I’m not exactly sure why he mentioned that I look them up, when people recommend something, I believe it’s in my best interest to do some digging, even if I when I start, I don’t know why… Now, two days later, I’m thinking it’s because of truth. Truth.

Twenty years or so ago in New York City I had the pleasure of living with two very talented opera singers… James Rio and George Dyer. Tenors. One day I was dissing on opera, not quite understanding what it was that I didn’t dig about most of it… When Jimmy popped in a VHS tape he had. I believe it was of Maria Callas… Her simple performance shut me up… The way I remember it was she was standing on a huge stage and just opened her mouth and let out her truth. I wish I could remember the song or particular performance and include a link… But this was way before the Internet and YouTube… I remember it as no cuts, a wide shot, and her not moving even an inch from when she started the song till the moment she finished.

I had another similar experience when I started researching Barbra Streisand, who I had previously not ever really been a fan of… Her performance on the Dinah Shore show, though 50 years later, shut me up, and kept me captivated.

The truth is, whether or not I’m familiar with the language or story, if it’s truthful… An honest, truthful performance will stop me dead in my tracks, and now I realize that truth is what draws me in, what keeps me watching as an audience member, and what as a performer I strive for each and every time I open my mouth or get on a stage. Truth.

Truth. Truth.

– Quiche Out

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