MAC to School Returns Sept. 9 & 10

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SEPTEMBER 9 & 10, 2023

The Manhattan Association of Cabarets (MAC) announces the eighth year of its MAC TO SCHOOL weekend event. The two-day interactive cabaret symposium features master classes, panel discussions, seminars, workshops, and showcases, and will be held Saturday and Sunday, September 9 & 10 from 9:00 am to 7 pm each day at Don’t Tell Mama and Studios 353 in Manhattan.

MAC TO SCHOOL is open to MAC members and non-members.

  • Flat registration fee for MAC members: $90
  • Registration fee for non-MAC members: $165, or join MAC for only $65 (basic level) for a full-year membership to take advantage of the deeply discounted MAC member price of only $90 for the entire MAC TO School weekend (as well as discounts to other MAC events throughout the year!).

The registration fee is good for admission to all MAC To School events. Tuition is the same regardless of how many sessions you attend. Register early, as opportunities to participate in interactive sessions are determined on a first come, first served basis!

MAC To School’s sessions feature cabaret performers, musical directors, directors, ensemble musicians, and booking managers from NYC and beyond.

Visit to register. Registration closes September 8.

Complete schedule follows.

MAC TO SCHOOL: September 9 & 10, 2023

Saturday, September 9

9-15 a.m.-12 noon at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th St., New York, NY 10036

1-7 p.m. at Studios 353, 353 West 48th St., 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10036

9:15-9:45 a.m.

Registration, Donuts, and Coffee

Join the MAC Board of Directors in the piano bar at Don’t Tell Mama to register for MAC To School! Receive your schedule of events and hobnob with your fellow cabaret enthusiasts over donuts and coffee.

9:45-10:45 a.m.

Meet Your Microphone: An Interactive Exploration of Sound with Kelly Wohlford

Don’t Tell Mama’s Chief Technical Director takes a deep dive into the sonic environment of performance. Learn to use the mic and monitor to your best advantage, gain the know-how to optimize your tech rehearsal and sound check, and become an active partner in the creation of your show’s best sound. Eight singers will have to opportunity to work on stage with a pianist under Wohlford’s expert tutelage. Q & A.

11 a.m.-12 noon

A Century of Cabaret with Michael Kirk Lane

This illustrated lecture by award-winning performer and teacher Lane explores the history of the intimate art of cabaret, from its beginnings in France in the 1850s through NYC’s glittering mid-century nightclub scene. From Le Chat Noir, where composer Erik Satie was house pianist, to the speakeasies where Irving Berlin met the debutante of his dreams, to downtown’s Café Society where Billie Holiday debuted “Strange Fruit,” Lane intersperses cabaret’s backstory with clips of historic performances by legendary artists.

1-3 p.m.

Panel Discussion: Nuts and Bolts: Establishing, Maintaining, and Growing Your Cabaret Career moderated by Anna Anderson

A cross-section of cabaret professionals discuss best practices, shortcuts, what works, and what’s possible in the cabaret industry. A wide-ranging discussion with useful nuggets for beginning, emerging, and mid-career cabaret artists. Q & A. Panel includes promoter, performer, editor/publisher of NiteLifeExchange Scott Barbarino; actor, director, choreographer, and multi-instrumentalist Kenney M. Green; performer and booking manager at Don’t Tell Mama Sidney Myer; Broadway alum Susie Mosher, MAC-Award-winning host of Birdland’s “The Lineup;” and songwriter, director, performer, technical director, and booking manager at 53 Above Jason Ellis; and is moderated by piano bar diva and MAC Board member Anna Anderson.

3:15–4:45 p.m.

A Thought Can Change a Song with Lina Koutrakos

If six different singers sang the exact same song, but from their own personal point of view (thoughts, memories, photographs in their minds), each performance would be as unique as the singers themselves. Let’s try it! Work with master teacher Lina Koutrakos, whose special skill in bringing out each performer’s authentic voice will help to further differentiate and personalize each performer’s take on Sondheim’s “I Remember” from Evening Primrose.

5-7 p.m.

Cabaret Performance Master Class with Mark Nadler

The indefatigable singer/pianist Mark Nadler has been called “Mr. Show Business” and “an immensely talented latter-day vaudevillian.” This internationally renowned cabaret powerhouse will work with 8-12 singers on a song of their choosing to fine-tune their storytelling, vocal strategies, acting and musical choices in the service of authenticity and impact. Nadler’s love for and knowledge of the American Songbooks is wide and deep, and has taken him to every cabaret room in New York, from The Algonquin to Sardi’s, and beyond.

Sunday, September 10

9:30 a.m.-12 noon at  Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th St., New York, NY 10036

1-6:45 p.m. at Studios 353, 353 West 48th St., 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10036

9:30 a.m.-12 noon

Costume Party at Don’t Tell Mama!: Crafting the “Performing You”

“Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story.”—Mason Cooley

Three interlocking sessions designed to help you build and refine your onstage persona.

9:30 a.m.-12 noon

Stage Glow-Up with Natasha Castillo

Make-up artist and MAC Board member Natasha Castillo offers free stage makeovers in the Piano Bar, along with tips for maximizing the impact of your make-up under the lights.

9:30-10:30 a.m.

Clothes Encounters of the Cabaret Kind: Dressing For The Stage with Kristoffer Lowe

Wear your favorite stage outfit to Lowe’s insightful workshop on dressing to perform. A fount of knowledge on all things sartorial, MAC and Bistro Award-winning cabaret artist Lowe shares hacks for looking your sharpest (Scotch tape on your collar!), as well as tried-and-true principles of effective costuming. In addition, Lowe will work with 6-8 performers in costume, giving feedback on the story their clothes tell an audience—and helping each performer to reveal their authentic “stage self” through costuming.

10:45 am.-12 noon

Finding Your Character with Ray DeForest/Doris Dear

Who exactly is the “performing you”? How do you pick and choose which parts of yourself make up your ideal onstage persona, and which parts to leave at home? Ray DeForest mastered this delicate balancing act when he created his alter ego Doris Dear—America’s Perfect Housewife. Whether your own onstage persona is drag queen, a glamorous diva, or just a “stage version” of yourself, DeForest will help you find it in just 16 bars! Eight singers will work with DeForest in a master class format to connect deeply with their songs, infusing them with genuine emotions and personal stories. Through a combination of storytelling, improvisation, and vocal exercises, participants will learn how to tap into their unique experiences and emotions to create performances that resonate with authenticity.

1-2:30 p.m.

Panel Discussion: The War On Drag—Coming To A Club Near You! moderated by Tym Moss

Join moderator Tym Moss, drag artists Ray DeForest/Doris Dear (America’s Perfect Housewife), David Sabella/Amanda Reckonwith (“the world’s most beloved spento-soprano”), and Cissy Walken (Miss Stonewall 50), and other guests TBA, in a wide-ranging discussion encompassing the history, art, and politics of drag. This most embattled subset of the cabaret universe is subversive by its very nature; the panel will celebrate the artistry, creativity, and courage displayed by drag artists as they reinterpret and challenge conventional notions of gender, identity, and performance. From its historical roots to its contemporary relevance, and from artistic expression to political engagement, this panel promises an enriching discourse on the power of performance to transform both the stage and society at large.

2:45-4:15 p.m.

Contemporary Story Song Showcase, hosted by Corinna Sowers-Adler

The cabaret community is home to many talented and prolific songwriters with trunks-full of original material that could be just right for your next show! In this showcase, twelve songwriters/songwriting teams present original story songs for YOUR consideration. Host Sowers-Adler, who has garnered raves for her three editions of Stories … A Cabaret, will interview the songwriters, who will make sheet music available for interested singers after the show. Songwriters include David Alpher & Jennie Litt, Ilene Angel, Jeff Blumenkrantz, John DiPinto, Richie Eisenberg, Jason Ellis, Julie Gold, Wells Hanley, Noel Katz, Garry Novikoff, Gary Plotkin & Ron Dellapina, Sheree Sano, and Tom Toce & Michele Brourman.

4:30-6:45 p.m.

It’s Better With A Band! with Gregory Toroian (piano), Skip Ward (bass) and Natasha Castillo (drums)

End the weekend with a bang—or, perhaps, a multiple bounce roll on the hi-hat? Join the Gregory Toroian (pictured) and his trio in a live band workshop combining lecture—sheet music prep and fundamentals, communicating with the band—and practicum. Eight singers will work on a song of their choosing with the band, being challenged to try different musical styles on the fly. You’ll learn:

  • How to “go with the flow” when something happens live that wasn’t part of the plan
  • Hand signals for communicating with the band mid-song
  • The different arranging possibilities, textures, and colors of which the piano/bass/drums combo is capable

*Artists, panelists, and presenters subject to change.*

*Depending upon enrollment, singing in master classes and workshops is not guaranteed.*

Presenter Bios

Kelly Wohlford is the Chief Technical Director at Don’t Tell Mama. She brings to the table over 30 years of creative and technical experience in the entertainment industry, the bulk of which was spent at Long View Farm Studios, the world-class residential recording facility in central Massachusetts. As a staff audio engineer and producer, Kelly worked on recording projects ranging from major-label artists to regional bands to session work for Bose Corporation, and an eclectic array of genres from heavy metal and classic rock to jazz, folk, and more. She is currently the Creative Producer for CGMM, Inc. a non-profit entertainment company whose mission is to utilize music to empower young people to create a more sustainable existence on this planet.

Michael Kirk Lane is an award-winning cabaret artist, having most recently won the 2020 MAC Award for Male Musical Comedy Performer. Along with three previous MAC-Award nominations, Lane has been nominated for three BroadwayWorld Cabaret Awards, winning in 2018 for Best Show. Stephen Mosher of BroadwayWorld Cabaret has called Lane “one of the most popular performers and people working in cabaret today.” Cabaret Scenes has deemed Lane’s work “musical comedy heaven.” Lane was seen Off-Broadway in the cast of Hell’s Belles, and has appeared in developmental readings and demo recordings for many musicals, including readings at The York Theatre, The Dramatists Guild, Jerry Orbach Theatre, and other venues throughout the city. Lane serves as Associate Producer for No Strings Productions, making puppet films for children in troubled areas of the world. He is also a member of the voice cast for International Children’s Television’s YouTube series The Flying Tent. As a teaching artist for over 20 years, Lane has taught all ages from pre-schoolers to senior citizens. In each class he brings the same philosophy to his teaching: art, theater, and music are ways for us to connect with our most authentic self, and to explore the world around us.

Lina Koutrakos is a unique voice and a one-in-a-million performer. Her sultry vocal entrances, almost purposely misleads you, as her sound goes from an emotional explosion to a joyful soft caress, as it’s coupled with her rare story-telling ability through song.  Rave reviewed in all New York’s major publications as a singer, Lina is also a multi-award winning director and performance coach. The Gold Coast Award in Chicago, The Petite Piaf in Paris and many MAC and Bistro awards in Manhattan. Lina continues to tour the planet with all she does and will release her 7th album in 2024.MarkNadler-1.pdf

Mark Nadler is the recipient of eight awards from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets, three Backstage Bistros, two New York Nightlife Awards, two Broadway World Awards and two Bay Area Outer Critics’ Circle Awards. Mark has also been nominated for France’s prestigious Trophée de la Théâtre Musicale.  He has been a soloist with major orchestras, playing everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Philadelphia’s 14,000 seat amphitheater at The Mann Center.  His off-Broadway show, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, was honored with a New York Nightlife Award, a Drama Desk nomination and a nomination for Australia’s highest performing arts honor, the Helpmann Award.

Kristoffer Lowe An award-winning cabaret artist, his show You‘re Getting To Be A Habit With Me: The Songs of Harry Warren, received critical praise and a 2016 MAC Award.  He is also the recipient of a 2015 Bistro Award and a 2015 MAC Award for his debut show. He has sung at the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Convention at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall and historic Town Hall, receiving the 2015 Julie Wilson Award for excellence in cabaret. Other appearances include the Cole Porter 125th Birthday Concert at Carnegie Hall, the Noël Coward Foundation, the Brownville Concert Series and the Lynn University Concert Series in Boca Raton, FL. Theatrical credits include: National and Canadian tour: Vallon in Show Boat; Padre in Man of La Mancha (Human Race Theatre); Nanki-Poo in The MIkado (River Rep. Theatre); Reuben in Joseph (Media Theatre); Neville Craven in The Secret Garden (White Plains PAC). He regularly performs with and serves on the advisory board for Vocal Ease, a non-profit volunteer organization that presents hour long concerts of jazz standards and the American Songbook to NYC’s elderly in nursing homes, retirement communities, hospitals and drop-in centers.  B.A. Birmingham-Southern College.  

Ray DeForest Performer, producer, activist, community leader Ray DeForest is also known as his award-winning theatrical character “Doris Dear, America’s Perfect Housewife”. Ray is a multiple award winner of the MAC Award, the prestigious Telly Award, the Communicator Award and Broadway World Awards for his work. Ray is a judge for the National Daytime Emmy Awards as well as a juror for the Aiva Award Group. He’s been featured in numerous movies and TV productions, performs in his popular theatrical cabaret-style shows and produces and stars in the award-winning series, Doris Dear’s Gurl Talk, in its 4th season streaming on BroadwayOnDemand and his YouTube channel. In addition to entertaining audiences and raising funds to support theater development, Ray is a member of the distinguished Dramatist Guild of America and serves on the National LGBTQ SAG-AFTRA committee. It’s through his 46 year entertainment career that Ray nurtured his storytelling and comedic talents, as well as his ability to connect with an audience and take them on an emotional journey through his music. “Art requires reaction,” he proclaims.

Corinna Sowers-Adler has been nominated for the special Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award every year since its inception in 2015. She made her solo New York Cabaret Debut in 2010 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in Stories…A Cabaret.  Since then, Corinna has been in high demand, performing solo shows in NYC at the Triad, the Duplex Cabaret, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, Metropolitan Room, Feinstein’s/54 BELOW, The Green Room 42, and the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center where she debuted the concert series “Music Over Manhattan.”  Corinna was honored to make her Lincoln Center debut as a featured singer on The 24th Annual Cabaret Convention at Jazz at Lincoln Center presented by The Mabel Mercer Foundation, and has appeared several times on the convention since then. She has performed her concert entitled “Corinna Sowers Adler in Something Beautiful” around the US and in The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center to rave reviews. In 2011, Corinna began the monthly series, Music at the Mansion, which was nominated for a MAC award and continues to delight audiences. She and her husband Nicholas Adler also created and produced the series Cabaret on the Hudson in the Irvington Town Hall theater in Irvington, NY and “NiCori Presents” which produces cabaret shows with NiCori’s Arts Partners around the United States as well as the “New Jersey Cabaret Festival” which celebrates performers with a connection to the Garden State. Corinna is Founding Artistic Director of NiCori Studios & Productions, dedicated to bringing theater and vocal arts education programing and performance to the next generation of the American Songbook. NiCori: Educate. Inspire. Entertain.  

Gregory Toroian is a musical director, arranger, jazz pianist, singer-songwriter, and educator. He has been featured in Cabaret Scenes magazine and was the 2020 Bistro Award winner for Outstanding Collaboration with Sue Matsuki, with whom he also won the MAC award for Best Duo Production. In addition to working with such artists as Tony Bennett, Jon Hendricks, Cab Calloway, Donna Summer, Melissa Errico, Marilyn Maye, Karen Mason, and Jane Olivor, he has appeared in almost every jazz club and cabaret (major and minor) in New York. He has toured with principal dancers from the New York City Ballet and has made numerous radio and television appearances including the Today Show and Maury Povich. His recording work as a pianist, arranger, and producer, includes CDs by Leslee Warren, Suzanna Ross, Sue Matsuki, and Nancy Stearns. Gregory’s vocal arrangements have been featured on a series of albums in the US and Japan, by the vocal group String of Pearls. As an educator, Gregory coaches singers both privately and in a variety of group workshops (Jazz, Phrasing, Piano/Bass/Drums, Rhythm, Vocal Harmony, and more).