BWW Interviews: A Chat with La-Ti-Do's Founders on Occasion of Weekly Cabaret Series' Second Anniversary

In New York City, it seems, one can find a cabaret venue on virtually every corner. Although such institutions are far less common in our own metropolitan area, things are starting to change. Much of these thanks go to two infectiously energetic musical theatre aficionados - Don Michael Mendoza and Regie Cabico.

Two years ago this week - on January 23 to be exact - they launched a weekly cabaret series at Dupont Circle's Black Fox Lounge, aptly named La-Ti-Do (catchy no?) to a full house. Now every Monday up-and-coming and established spoken word artists and area musical theatre performers share the stage in this informal and immensely collegial and encouraging environment. In June of 2013, the dynamic duo expanded their reach to New York City and now offer New Yorkers the option of experiencing La-Ti-Do on a monthly basis (every fourth Sunday) at the Bowery Poetry Club.

With this anniversary on the horizon, DC BroadwayWorld chatted with Mendoza and Cabico via email about the cabaret's roots, what makes it unique, and their expectations for the future. DC area cabaret lovers are encouraged to check out La-Ti-Do's special anniversary celebration, featuring many La-Ti-Do alumni, on Thursday, January 23 at 7 PM at the Black Fox Lounge.

DC BroadwayWorld: How and why did you all come up with the idea to start a weekly cabaret series in DC?

Don Michael Mendoza (DMM): Well, really it was Regie's suggestion to go weekly. Nothing in this region happens on a weekly basis and he knew that going weekly - though a monumental task - would be something that would be extremely beneficial to make our series unique from all the rest.

Regie Cabico (RC): From a DC spoken word perspective, the venues that have reached international reputations are Bloombars and Busboys and Poets and they happen weekly. A lot of cabaret events in DC happen monthly. Don Mike and I knew it would be a lot of work, but a weekly series could have the potential of showcasing poets, and touring performers and that were traveling through DC.

DC BroadwayWorld: Now that La-Ti-Do has reached its 2 year anniversary, what are your plans and expectations for the future?

DMM: We've come to a happy medium with the show format and order, but our next steps are solidifying our transformation into a 501c3 Not-For-Profit organization and making moves into doing more community work and partnerships as well as taking on educational workshop endeavors.

RC: As La-Ti-Do grows, Don Mike and I want to retain the high artistic quality and warmth of the artists and audience members.

DC BroadwayWorld: La-Ti-Do is unique in that it combines musical theatre performances and spoken word performances into one cabaret event. Did you set out to feature both art forms (and if so, why) or did it happen organically?

DMM: Yes. The combo happened because my background is solely in musical theatre, but Regie's is in both that and spoken word. He wanted to collaborate with me to create something that combined his two major artistic passions. For me, I wanted to create a space that I could call my own that would be nurturing to my artistic background as a newcomer in the DC community. Thus, the thought of presenting the two art forms as equals was born.

RC: La Ti Do is birthed out of our friendship and camaraderie. As a former musical theatre major, I know how hard it is for a young Filipino actor to find parts. I became a poet out of necessity. Creating an arts venue such as La-Ti-Do that promotes diversity and inclusiveness is rare in DC.

I can't think of any other cabaret series or spoken word series in DC to feature high calibre emerging and professional talent to this degree. I missed the piano bar culture that pervades Manhattan, where almost every night you can sit around a piano and belt a show tune. I was also bored of the poetry open mic venues and wanted to find a nicer room for spoken word where there would be a grand piano.

Cabaret culture is being redefined in New York and I couldn't think of cabaret venues in DC that will go out of the box to bring some of the edginess that the growing slam poetry culture brings. Slam poetry was invented in Chicago to foster poetry for the people decided by the people instead of a chandeliered academic elite experience. With that spirit in mind, I think we wanted to develop a 'cabaret' for the people with the voices of DC theatre artists, singer songwriters and storytelling wordsmiths engaging non-artists and first time attendees with a heart and passion that gets lost in the governmental, national marble of DC.

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Jennifer Perry Jennifer Perry is the Senior Contributing Editor for BroadwayWorld.Com's DC page. She has been a DC resident since 2001 having moved from Upstate New York to attend graduate school at American University's School of International Service. When not attending countless theatre, concert, and cabaret performances in the area and in New York, she works for the US Government as an analyst. Jennifer previously covered the DC performing arts scene for Maryland Theatre Guide, DC Metro Theater Arts, and DC Theatre Scene.