Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kareen Foster of Bending Threads: Breaking the Box



What motivated you to launch Bending Threads Cabaret Company?

Rejection. What motivated me was not getting booked for shows, and I found Bending Threads to be the platform to do it myself. “Bending” represented what we were trying to do: Change the way people thought of black performers and challenge the way theater has been presented. "Threads" represented the four of us who were very different, unique performers whose only similarity was that we were black. Four threads intertwined to create a beautiful picture for the future of cabaret and the theater. And personally, I challenge my vocal ability with songs that I know are out of my comfort zone.

In the upcoming show, you chose to celebrate Ella Fitzgerald as your LEGEND. What drew you to her?

When it comes to Ella, it is her precision and expertise in her execution of her songs that impresses me. Her riffs & scatting meant improvising was no longer easy, but a level that other singers had to reach hard for. I was also in love with the timbre of her voice. It's very light, smooth and slightly operatic, like Audra McDonald, versus a typical deep sultry voice. Although she can hit the highest and lowest notes, there was an eloquent simplicity to her tone. These were all the things that attracted me to her. Taking on Ella in jazz is like taking on Whitney in pop/R&B.



What innovations or boundary breakers has Bending Threads introduced?

In our very first show, "We Wear the Mask," we hit our first boundary breaker by presenting songs that we would never be cast for. My solo, for instance, was "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, sung by Sutton Foster, the original ingenue. For a casting director, the only thing me and her have in common is our last names. We also then did the first-ever three-night cabaret series, "Dreamscape," in which three different cabaret shows were presented and connected under one theme, through over 60 songs total (see below for a sampling of each set list). The common theme was exploring our dreams. Night one was our fantasies, night two was our nightmares and night three were our goals and dreams fulfilled.

We also include poetry in our shows; it’s the skeleton of the themes. "We Wear the Mask" was inspired by the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem with the same title. Most people stay in their lane, but we risk it and learn all types of genres, from Top 40 to Soul, contemporary theater, classical, jazz and so much more.

I would say our biggest challenge is the cabaret world, which is very set in its tradition. It is a constant challenge to penetrate this world. It is a dying art form, and it needs an evolution in order to survive.

Dreamscape, Night one: Fantasies
Dreamlover - Mariah Carey
Dreaming of you - Selena
These Dreams - Heart
Pure Imagination - from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Dreamgirls - from Dreamgirls the musical
Sweet Dreams - Beyonce

Night two: Nightmares
My Immortal - Evanescence
I Still Believe - from Miss Saigon
We Had a Dream - from The Life (the musical)
Just a Dream - Carrie Underwood
Pastime Paradise - Stevie Wonder
Spanish Sailing Ship - from Songs For a New World
What's Going on/Mercy Mercy Me/What's Going On - Marvin Gaye

Night three: Dreams Fulfilled
Don't Stop Believing - Journey
Brand New Day - from The Wiz
Defying Gravity - from Wicked
The Rose - Bette Midler
All I Have to Do Is Dream - The Everly Brothers

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