Non Traditional Roles: Cabaret Host/MC

Being a host or MC of a Broadway concert or cabaret is a very fun position that a few awesome folks in the theater community have perfected. Could you have what it takes to join their ranks?

What they do: Hosts are meant to keep the audience entertained while musicians switch from one song to the next. They get to meet really cool artists and introduce them in fun ways. They typically have a background in acting, since being natural and comfortable onstage is a must.

A host creates the culture and vibe of the entire evening, which makes them pivotal to how the audience perceives the show. Even though they get very little credit in comparison to the actual performers, they really do make or break the show by keeping a constant flow and energy on stage.

This role is vital to the new musical theater scene. Think about how many musical theatre concerts there are – there’s likely to be talking in between songs. A lot of times songwriters will be their own hosts, so it’s important to think about building your hosting/stage presence skills if you’re a writer. But in situations where the writer can’t be there or in concerts that feature a multitude of writers, it falls to the host to tie the evening together.

Skills: Comedy, comedy, comedy. Also: acting, stage presence, improv, reading the audience, and impeccable timing.

Role models: Ben D Cameron, Mark Shunock, Terese Genecco, Bernie Furshpan, Tom Gamblin

Awards: The MAC Awards have a category devoted to the best cabaret host!

How to become a host: Pay attention to the hosts of events you go to, noting what they do well and how to improve yourself based on that. If you’re still in school, start expressing interest to your theater professors. They’re likely to know of gigs in need of hosts. Get involved in your school’s improv groups and start doing comedy open-mic nights in your area. If you’re out of school, still look for ways to perform and practice your comedy and improv skills while going to cabarets and networking with the hosts of those night shows.

Fun fact: MC stands for Master of ceremonies. It may also show up as emcee or compère/commère.

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