A 20 Year Cabaret – for my old chum Susan

I just slipped a t-shirt over my head. It’s one of my favorites. A souvenir from a show I did several years ago. A little slice of musical theater Heaven called ‘Cabaret’.

The shirt itself is black. Nothing all that remarkable as I have several black articles of clothing. The logo is white, crafted very similarly to the logo of the film version of Cabaret of the 1970’s. Again, nothing all that remarkable. I’ve worn this shirt probably 500 times.

But something about this shirt really caught my eye tonight. It’s a four character feature on the front of the shirt.

It’s the year that this production of Cabaret that I was in was produced at a community theater in South Portland, ME.


It’s been 20 years since I auditioned for and rehearsed for and performed in Cabaret.

This just can’t be possible! Twenty years!

20 years ago, a LOT happened.

When I was cast in Cabaret I was living with the man cast as ‘Cliff Bradshaw’, the male lead. We had done shows together (it was, in fact, how we’d met in the first place) and it helped to allow us to pursue something we both loved and spend non-work hours together as well, being that at times we were in different shows and rarely saw one another for weeks on end between work, rehearsals, and performances.

The director of the show, a wonderful woman named Barbara, was unlike any other director I’d worked with at that point. Her approach to her craft, her style, her way of engaging an actor in the process and the part itself was what sparked my own interest in directing theater. Watching her provide the ‘framework’ for a character and asking the actor how they thought it should be filled in…always allowing for the ‘happy accident’ in a performance that might not have been her initial vision for the character…her gentle, caring, endless patience and encouragement made that show one of my favorite experiences in all the years I have been involved with theater.

Cabaret also brought me a ‘forever friend’. My mother had one of these, and each time they exchanged a greeting card for a birthday or holiday she always inscribed it ‘To Carrie, my Forever Friend’. I remember asking my mom what that was one day, and she told me  that it is someone you feel like you’ve always known, and are certain you always will. Just the kind of friend I like to have.

I found one of those in the cast of Cabaret, although at the time I didn’t really suspect it when I met her. She was to play the lead, Sally Bowles. Her name was Susan.

In truth I’d met her the prior fall – at a Halloween party and costume contest where she and her then partner were dressed as characters from Pulp Fiction. I’d gone as The Phantom Of The Opera with my friend Alice who dressed as Pippi Longstocking. She and Susan knew one another, and Alice introduced me to her. It was many months before I saw her again; until Cabaret auditions rolled around.

During the rehearsal and performance period and after the show ended we formed an easy, comfortable friendship. Susan was upbeat and friendly and always up for fun. She belted out tunes with the best of them and laughed heartily, always offering a great big smile and a personality brighter than a marquee in Times Square. I remember thinking ‘this is someone I absolutely HAVE to get to know!’ when we first began rehearsing a show together, and I have never regretted that decision.

Twenty years have passed. We’ve known one another through make-ups and break-ups, birth and death, happy times and sad, everything under the sun. We’ve gone to movies and shows and dinner and drinks and parties and housewarmings….and on more occasions than I can recall…we’ve hit karaoke bars – although we’ve never, not in twenty years, sung a duet together.

Susan is someone who at first was a friend who eventually became family….and then became something even closer than family to me….she became a part of me…a part of my life, a part of my heart, a part of my soul (inasmuch as I believe I have one) – she became someone who I know, without a doubt, will always be in my life until the very end. She became a ‘forever friend’…the kind you always can tell when they do something to piss you off and then it’s gone and forgotten, and it’s never really even THAT big a deal….the kind you never, ever question their motives or loyalty even if you don’t always immediately understand something they might have done; the kind that if anyone, no matter who, told you that they’d betrayed you, you’d never for a second believe it – because you know too well they never would. The kind that you can call night or day and you know they will listen, they will care, they will drive 200 miles to help you out of a jam. The kind of person that you can sit down with them and let them into the deepest, darkest corners of your mind, the place where the demons rattle around in their cages, barely contained – and there’s something so safe and comforting about having them there.

Susan is that for me. And for twenty years I’ve had the pleasure and the honor of her friendship. Twenty years….where we’ve tasted the wine, heard the band, blown our horns, and are STILL celebrating. I can’t even begin to imagine that it has been twenty years since we met one another and got to be friends – and although the time has literally flown by…I’m so glad she was here to share the flight with me.

Happy ‘anniversary’ to you, my forever friend, Susan…..with me through thick and through thin….and while it may be true that we’ve never, ever picked up dual microphones and belted out a tune together….the sweetest duet I could ever imagine singing with you is the friendship we’ve shared over the past two decades.

I love you more than words can say.