5 Questions: Sally Mayes

Sally Mayes will present her cabaret show at the Philipstown Depot Theatre in Garrison on Jan. 22. 

Sally MayesHow do you define cabaret?
I have always felt it was a place where I could express what’s in my head at any given time. In theater, you’re serving the purview of the director and the writer. In cabaret, you get to make your own vision come to life. I’ve always believed if you can stand onstage and be yourself, you can stand onstage and be anything. I like to show off my colors. For some, it’s terrifying. For me it’s fun.

Do most successful evenings of cabaret have a theme?
A cabaret show can be a lot of different things. This is going to be a hodgepodge. I like to do story songs, the blues, country songs, jazz, because it’s also about being challenged. I’ve done five albums, lots of concert work and lots of theater. During the pandemic, I had lots of time and I went through the files. I realized I have all this great material. So although this show isn’t themed, it’s got a lot of those “It’s nice to be able to pull these things out” in it.

The show’s music director is Alex Rybeck. What does a music director do?
We meet, talk about ideas, gather material, then get in a room and start playing. Later, they rehearse the band with you. Sometimes we do things with arrangements I already have, but other times we do it from the ground up. I like to have a hand in my arrangements. I have ideas and like to be in the room. Of course, they do your gigs with you.

What role does being a Texan play in your story?
I am who I am, and there is a little bit of Southern in me always, especially when I’m around another Southern person — more of that comes out, along with my accent. I’m an artist-in-residence at my alma mater, the University of Houston, and I spend a week there each semester working with students. I seem to shift into my full Southern accent immediately. I’m proud of being a Southern woman. It’s part of my history and my personality.

What would you most like audiences to take away from an evening spent with you?
I want them to feel like they’ve taken a journey. Years of experience have given me the experience of making it cohesive — more than just the songs you want to sing: a richer, fuller, fatter journey. I always loved doing it, but I think I’m better at it now. I hope the audience will feel how very, very much I love music and how much I love to sing it.

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