Growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles, California I was blessed with a great family and wonderful parents who always supported my desire to be in front of an audience – whether that was in the back yard or the ballet studio or the local community theater. In an effort to be practical I majored in Communications at UCLA thinking I should have a degree to "fall back on". Well, despite many occupations over the years, I have never been hired because of my degree, but I have used what I learned there every day since graduation.
After college I worked extensively as a performer for several Southern California theater companies, including Opera Pacific and Long Beach Civic Light Opera. I was truly enjoying working in theater, and at the same time the joy of singing the songs I heard in my childhood began to captivate my imagination. My father had always played a wide variety of music - certainly the classics and operas, but also vocalists such as Sergio Franchi and Jacqueline Francois. I studied all the old Broadway tunes, as well as standards from the 40’s – they all seemed to fit me so much better than current music. I brushed up on my French language skills and delved into the songbooks of Charles Trenet, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour.
Along the way, two great classes changed the course of my career:
One was scene study with Robert Hanley. He encouraged us look to at a song as a monologue, taking an acting scene – any scene – and putting a song in it, in order to learn how to make the words of the song flow from the character.
The other was a workshop in how to develop a cabaret act taught by Shelly Markham. There I learned how to take that song – the monologue – and build an act that had shape. Suddenly I had the tools to create my own theater piece. What freedom – and what a creative playground!
As I began to develop my cabaret acts I kept working in theater. For over fifteen years I have been performing improvisational interactive theater, and I have certainly leaned a lot from that experience. It has helped me to understand how to talk with an audience, and roll with just about anything that comes along in a live show. Every actor that I work with, every audience that I meet, and every unique performance teaches me something new.In the year 2000 my family founded a non-profit organization, the John E. Profant Foundation for the Arts, in honor of my father. We have given over $200,000 in scholarships to developing artists of all ages since we started, as well as producing free concerts and exhibits of professional artists for the community of Santa Barbara, California. All artists have a spark within and I am happy to help some of them develop that spark, and share it.
The joy that I find in singing is overwhelming, and everything I have done so far has helped me to do what I do now. I love bringing songs to life that may have been on the shelf for a very long time, or perhaps have been worn out by elevators the world over. There are so many great treasures – and I get to dust them off and share them! What a wonderful life!
What is Cabaret?
…Cabaret singing has its roots in the chansons of Paris at the turn of the century, in the dark political satire of Berlin in the 20’s and in the mellow, smoky nightclubs of New York in the 50’s. But I believe it’s become something quite distinct in the 90’s.
It has come to mean an intensely personal evening of song and stories, delivered in a simple, honest way, in an intimate space that shatters the “fourth wall,” a term actors use to describe what’s beyond the footlights. Part stand-up comic, part balladeer, part evangelist, today’s performer often has a theme that unifies the evening (either the work of a single composer, an era like World War II or a genre like theater) and a strong dramatic sense of beginning, middle and end. They also tend to know a great deal about the music they’re singing, be it classics from the American popular song book, obscure treasures or new songwriters just starting out; they are generous enough to share that information in witty and inventive ways.
But the real art of the cabaret performer lies in the juxtaposition of songs, putting two or three songs together in such a way that new and deeper meanings come to light, the resonance of one song lingering to change the color of the next. At its best, cabaret can amuse, entertain, and inform, … it can dazzle you, catch you unawares and make you weep. It is not television. The audience participates in a direct, emotional conversation with the artist and leaves feeling contacted and personally touched.
…The complex emotions and tender melodies of the love songs that comprise the heart of a cabaret singer’s repertory give us hope–to find romance that never was, to rekindle romance that’s lying quiet, to shed our fears and try again. Love is not dead. Cabaret is not dead.
© The New York Times, 1994. Reprinted by permission.