Craig Benson as Herr Schultz and Dianne Zuleger as Fräulein Schneider.
“I’m Jewish. It tells the story of Kristallnacht. I’m playing Schultz, a man who’s in denial.” acist brethren in the U.S. and abroad. By bringing people of color and more LGBTQ performers into the Kit Kat Club, Custodio, who is a Filipino Indigenous American gay cis man, is hoping to expand the idea of the vulnerable — then and now. Likewise, the Nazis are updated, sporting white polo shirts and khakis like their contemporary counterparts. In this production, some of the furniture is portrayed by people, too — frozen in place as lamps, doors and coat racks. Little by little, it goes from shocking to expected, played for laughs, then cruel. Finally, Custodio says, it ends in “complete objectification. Complete loss of humanity. … Because that’s what happens. … It’s how people of color are looked at. How queer people are looked at.” Of all the emotional aspects of the show, the last degradation is the most taxing for Fuxabull. “Being a footstool is the hardest part for me. Because I am not,” she says, hand raised, “a footstool.” Craig Benson, who plays Herr Schultz the fruit seller, says he was drawn to the show partly because he knew Custodio would have “a take that was courageous, definitive and political.” He leans into the lobby table, his eyes, one blue and one green, unblinking. “I’m Jewish,” he says. “It
tells the story of Kristallnacht. I’m playing Schultz, a man who’s in denial.” Aside from the emboldened anti-Semitism, Benson sees parallels with denial about climate change and attacks on the rights of LGBTQ people. Cabaret will be Benson’s third show with NCRT, though he’s directed five shows and acted in somewhere around 10 other Humboldt productions. By day, he teaches environmental science and management at Humboldt State University. “My head is in the sciences all the time and I need something for the other side of my brain,” he says gesturing toward his gray hair. And while he finds creativity in his field, “I don’t get to move like this. I don’t sing. … It’s mind, body, spirit and community.” Most of his colleagues don’t know about his other life. “I’m not outed as an artist,” he says with a smile. On March 28, seven weeks out from opening night, the small mirrored studio at CalCourts Health and Fitness on Broadway in Eureka is crowded with dancers running through the choreography for “Don’t Tell Mama.” Noel August, who performs in drag as Tucker Noir, stands in the corner, a Continued on next page »
northcoastjournal.com • Thursday, May 23, 2019 • NORTH COAST JOURNAL
Eleven Weeks Till Curtain: From auditions to preview with the cast of Cabaret, by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill