When it comes to telling stories, journalists are taught to keep their emotion out of it. Get in, report the news and get out – this is most journalists’ modus operandi. At least that’s what we’re taught, but that doesn’t make it a realistic expectation. As any journalist can testify, reporting on people’s triumphs and struggles – no matter how drastically they may differ from our own – is bound to create a connection. Every journalist knows that at the end of the day, no matter what they look like or how they live, people are people.
It’s this human connection that NPR‘s Ari Shapiro talks about in his upcoming cabaret performance, Homeward, at AMP by Strathmore this Saturday. Years of traveling the world to report on wars, revolutions and most of all, people inspired the All Things Considered host to write this cabaret. Although he’s performed with the band Pink Martini for years, Homeward is Shapiro’s first stab at writing and performing a show like this on his own.
He gave it a test run at Halcyon House, and the response was so positive that Shapiro is bringing Homeward to AMP. Although the audience loved the first show, speaking into a mic is a different experience than singing and speaking in front of an intimate crowd.
“I was so nervous about it,” Shapiro says. “I told my parents not to come because if it didn’t go well, I wanted it to just die a quiet, anonymous death. But it went really well. It sold out and people reacted really strongly and enthusiastically and positively, and so I thought now that I know this works, let’s do it again. Let’s do it for real. Let’s remount it and see if we can make lightning strike twice.”
If you’re expecting entertainment, the talented musician will certainly deliver. But a cabaret brings its audience much more than entertainment, Shapiro says. One of Shapiro’s friends, who was a cabaret reviewer for a magazine, explained the difference between musical revue – multi-act theatrical entertainment – and cabaret. While both performances contain multiple elements of entertainment – dancing, singing, storytelling – a cabaret has to have more.
“A cabaret has to have a reason to exist, and has to have a relationship with the audience,” Shapiro says. “It has to land someplace different than where it began. It has to go somewhere. So a cabaret does have songs, and it does have stories, but it also has to say something beyond that.”
And Shapiro’s cabaret goes quite a few places. His career has taken him through five continents, and Pink Martini creates international music. Homeward will include songs sung in six languages other than English.
“As part of the process of putting the show together, I contacted people I had met who marched in Kiev and Syrians who had crossed the Mediterranean Sea in crowded rafts, and I asked them, ‘What was the soundtrack? What songs were people singing? What were people listening to in their ear buds?'” Shapiro says. “And so those stories and songs are woven throughout this performance.”
In addition to enjoying Shapiro’s crooning voice, Homeward will serve as a much-needed reminder that even if we share nothing else, we still share humanity.
Catch Homeward at AMP by Strathmore on Saturday, August 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30-$50. Learn more here.
AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, Maryland; 301-581-5100; www.ampbystrathmore.com