Some people don’t realize that research can occur in any department and can take many forms. Lydia Klaus, a senior theatre major from Murfreesboro, TN, spent her summer doing research on the background and setting for Cabaret, a classic musical being produced jointly by the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Department of Music later this month. Cabaret is set in Germany after World War I during the time of the Weimar Republic. A research assistantship awarded to Lydia through a program sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and administered through the Office of Career and Leadership Development enabled her to spend her summer perusing books, films, and visual art in order to lend authenticity to the production, ultimately writing about 30 pages of reports.
Lydia started out in the position of assistant costume designer to Professor Jennifer Matthews. She eventually took on the role of dramaturg for the production, serving as an “extra set of eyes” as the two searched and sorted through thousands of images in order to visualize each character. Matthews reports that Lydia was excellent at quickly digesting material and being able to distill the elements most helpful to her. Lydia’s retention of the material was invaluable when Matthews needed to recall precise information about details such as insignia, or types of shoes, or the nature of social scenes played out in the cabarets of Berlin. As dramaturg, Lydia was often called upon to answer general questions about the period. It was important to Lydia that she be prepared to share all of the information she had gathered without personal bias. In doing so, she was able to provide inspiration for the direction and the costume design.
Lydia is also acting in the production, playing the role of Fräulein Schneider. Once she graduates, she hopes to pursue a career in acting, but her experience as an assistant designer, a dramaturg, and as a costume technician has diversified her skill set, making her even more marketable. Lydia reports, “I have always been passionate about people and their stories, so researching for Cabaret has empowered me immensely. Not only have I had the opportunity to engage with the Berlin cabaret culture of the thirties, but I also know that there are other specialties in the theatre that can sustain me artistically aside from performance.”