Meet Debbie Swanson, who is performing as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret, and who happens to be on the board of directors at Lyric Arts! Read on to see what she thinks of how rehearsals are going so far! Where are you originally from? Des Moines, Iowa. In fact, my first experience on the stage was at the Des Moines Community Playhouse as a schoolgirl in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”.
Why did this particular play interest you? I love shows that have a strong historical significance—either within the context of American Theater itself or plays that depict a specific time in history. “Cabaret” does both. It takes you to a time and place in history that most Americans didn’t experience firsthand. Audiences can experience a slice of life in 1930 Germany--the decadence of the time, the emotional decisions that the people needed to make as their country was dealing with enormous economic issues, and the political unrest as the Nazi Party was gaining in strength and popularity. Cabaret also has a place in theater history. In the original mounting of Cabaret in 1966, director Harold Prince's staging was truly original and groundbreaking. As the audience arrived at the theater, the curtain was already up, revealing a stage containing nothing but a large mirror reflecting the auditorium. There was no overture, as in a traditional musical, instead-- a drum roll and cymbal crash led into the opening number. And finally, the juxtaposition of dialogue scenes with songs used as exposition and then separate cabaret numbers providing social commentary was a novel concept that initially startled the audience. I’d like to think that this is an important show in Lyric Art’s history as a theater as well. They are pulling out all the stops and producing a top notch, professional quality production that I think will open doors to more of the same in the months and years to come! I feel honored to be a part of that…
Talk about the character(s) that you play in Cabaret. I play Fräulein Schneider – an older woman who runs the boarding house that Cliff and Sally live in. It’s through Fraulein Schneider’s story arc that the audience experience’s life for a more average German woman. She needs to be concerned about how she is going to pay the bills, stay healthy and strong—in short, survive the current situation. She is not trying to “escape” by drinking and partying like some of the other characters that frequent the cabaret. We watch her make decisions throughout the show—whether from her heart or from her head—and we can relate to what she is living.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself? By day, I own an abrasives manufacturing company that supplies industrial sanding supplies to factories all over the United States. On the weekends I’m the wife of a very patient man, mom to five grown children and three grandchildren. In the evenings I’m either at church choir rehearsal, sharing a wonderful dinner with friends or hanging out at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage. I now affectionately call my time here as my “therapy session”. Some people recline on a couch in an actual therapist office, some people believe in retail therapy and spend their money shopping, and I access that creative, fun part of my brain and forget about work and life’s problems by living out the old “Let’s Put on a Show” mentality. Sound good? I’m sure Lyric Arts could use more volunteers—we have a lot of fun!