Last Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of attending U of T Spotlight’s first Cabaret Night of the year in Hart House’s Arbor Room. U of T Spotlight involves students from all three U of T campuses. Their initiative is to provide theatrical opportunities for growing artists to share and improve their work.

U of T Spotlight did a wonderful job creating a performative space with this event. However, the night got off to a rocky start. Very few people showed up to participate, and of the few who officially signed up to perform, only one came out. This was due to a general lack of promotion. According to Christina Kompson, the event planner and MC for the night, they were “trying to go for paperless advertising”. Learning from this experience, all parties involved agreed that posters will be used next time.

Despite its humble beginnings, the cabaret turned out to be a fantastic night.

The atmosphere of the Arbor Room was pleasant and conducive to the flow of creativity and community. Overall, the room was cozy and the people were welcoming.

As the event started, people slowly trickled in. Cabaret Night began with a spoken word poem from Kompson that touched on the prevalent issue of drug abuse, and the different ways it affects families. Ben Murchison, a representative of the U of T Drama Coalition, lifted the mood with his performance. He recounted the hilarious and cautionary tale of his first threesome. An ex-boyfriend, a drug dealer, and a fake death later, he reached the end of his story with laughter. The last scheduled performer was Ezera Beyene, who began by singing a few songs. The talented Beyene then continued to perform some spoken word poems.

The second half of the night was reserved for open-mic. This small, inviting group of people allowed even the quietest artists to get up on stage. Their support compelled me to perform some of my own spoken word poetry.

Luke Maynard was undeniably the star of the night. He performed three poems in total, one of which was witty for a change of pace. Listening to him speak nearly brought me to tears on two occasions: first, as he sang “The Ballad of Penny Evans” by Steve Goodman, and second, as he read a poem for a friend who had passed away. He recounted how sometimes, these major events cease to exist in time. They are simply a part of us. As they continue to occur every day, they shape who we become.

Many wonderful discussions such as this arose among the gathering. The message I ultimately took home with me—one you should keep in mind for the next Cabaret Night in November—is that cabaret isn’t reserved for extroverts, or people who love to perform. While it includes these people, it also provides an opportunity for the soft-spoken to experience their voice.