Moon Over Dark Street Cabaret Comes to MIT

By: Feb. 26, 2019
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Pilgrim Theatre and MIT Theater Arts Program collaborate to bring the company's acclaimed cabaret Moon Over Dark Street to Cambridge, at the Institute's elegant new performance space, Theater W97 located at 345 Vassar Street for three performances only March 8-10, 2019.

The jazz-hot tunes of love, lust, and agitation in Moon Over Dark Street careen from hilarity to despair, treasures of the timeless and timely musical collaboration among revolutionary German playwright, poet and activist, Bertolt Brecht; writer and lyricist Elizabeth Hauptmann; and composers Kurt Weill and Hanna Eisler during the decline of the Weimar Republic and the ominous rise of Adolph Hitler. This original compilation of songs and texts by Brecht and his cronies, created by cabaret chanteuse Belle Linda Halpern, pianist Ron Roy, and Pilgrim Theatre founders Kermit Dunkelberg and Kim Mancuso (lecturer in Theater Arts at MIT), will be performed for the first time in nearly 20 years, this time in MIT's new theater.

"Songs like Mack the Knife, Surabya Johnny, Pirate Jenny, Bilbao Song, Song of the Big Shot, and Alabama Song, protested the rise of Hitler and the subsequent devastation in Europe in WWII, and reflected Brecht's American experiences of Hollywood and HUAC in the McCarthy era," notes Mancuso. "Written nearly 100 years ago, the songs' bite hasn't diminished, and has a profound and disturbing relevance to today. What is dismaying are the parallels between Brecht's era and our own."

Moon Over Dark Street premiered at the Boston Center for the Arts in 1998 and landed at Don't Tell Mama, the revered NYC cabaret.

"When we first created this piece in '98, we were drawn to the directness of the songs: their dramatic and melodic economy and force, as well as their resonance with our own socio-political experience. Now, confronting this material twenty years later, in a research-rehearsal process hosted by MIT Theater Arts, it is both inspiring and a blow to the heart for the artistic team to recognize the persistent relevance of the material" notes Dunkelberg.

The dramatic and compositional techniques pioneered by Brecht, Weill, Eisler, and Hauptmann continue to inspire well-known contemporary artists as diverse as Nick Cave, Bavid Bowie, Bob Dylan, Teresa Stratis, The Dresden Dolls, Sting, Marianne Faithful, The Doors, Uta Lemper, Jean-Luc Godard, and the creators of the Netflix series Babylon Berlin.

"Change the world: it needs it!" wrote Brecht and Eisler.
Moon Over Dark Street does not simply mirror reality. The material certainly entertains. But it also proposes a rough, scratchy but powerful hope that one's "reality" can be changed. However, it takes courage over generations. The persistence of racism, sexism, oppression, and violence in our time proves that the vigilance and resistance insisted on in these songs in the early 21st century. Here one finds a foreshadowing of Charlottesville; #Me Too; families shattered by immigration policy; the pernicious costs of economic disparity; political corruption; and the irrepressible rise of the gangster -- as in Song of the Big Shot, from their rollicking, cynically fabulous musical Happy End.



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