The 118th Varsity Show might have lamented pre-professionalism, but it looks like one of its stars is making her way in the professional theater world. On Monday night, Rebekah Lowin, CC ’14—who played Center for Career Education Associate Dean Niamh O’Brien in V118—made her Lincoln Center debut performing at the New York Cabaret Convention. Lowin performed two solo songs accompanied by cellist Nathan Chan, CC-Juilliard ’15, for the opening night of the four-evening-long celebration, which featured over 60 performers. Spectator sat down with Lowin to discuss the concert, her experiences in the performing arts, and her own upcoming cabaret show.
Cindy Ma: When did you know that singing and acting was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
Rebekah Lowin: This is actually a fairly recent decision, and I hesitate to even call it a decision because, just like the rest of us at Columbia, I’m still figuring things out. In December, I called up my parents—I literally had an epiphany moment—and was like, “Hmm, maybe I should do this.” I’ve definitely always thought of it as a hobby, and now I see it more as a main passion. Whether it will turn into a career or not, we’ll find out.
CM: How do you think you have approached obtaining opportunities for yourself differently than others have in such a competitive industry?
RL: I’ve been lucky that over the summer I got a lot of stuff handed to me. People would invite me to sing at concerts, and I was invited to do some readings from new musicals. I would say certainly other people have been more proactive than I’ve been, and that’s a good thing. I definitely think that having a very strong social media presence is important, and some people might be annoyed by constant posting, but I do. You need to promote yourself. You need to be your own advocate. But besides that, I think it all comes down to luck. And while that’s all going in my favor right now, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
CM: Which do you think has been more helpful in terms of luck: being in New York City or Columbia specifically?
RL: I think I’ll always be grateful for Columbia and Columbia’s impact on my musical theater career because it sort of gave me a stepping-stone. I don’t think that I could’ve just jumped into New York City. The Columbia theater scene has been very close to what the real theater scene is like. I’ve made so many connections at Columbia that have helped me in real world theatre.
CM: You were recently in the ensemble in “Lydia and Tom,” a show written by Columbia students, at the New York International Fringe Festival this summer.
RL: It was exciting to be performing a musical off-campus. I really respect what the writers have done with the show—it’s Nick Parker and Solomon Hoffman. I think that they really made something beautiful, and I was just honored to be a part of it. I was ensemble, so I kind of just ate snacks in the back. That was a moment when my Columbia friends and the real world collided. So I think that was one of the coolest things I’ve done actually because I got to be with Columbia people but head outside of Lerner or Roone.
CM: Why cabaret?
RL: What’s so important about it is that it’s a personal evening. The singer does this thing called “patter,” and it’s just what you say in between the songs. And it’s scripted usually. It’s very important because your audience gets an idea of who you are. The song could be from a musical, but, when you’re singing it outside of the context of the musical, you have to make it about something in the context of your own life. You’re taking other people’s words and putting it through yourself, and it becomes very personal. I also have enjoyed having so much creative direction. It’s really about being actor, singer, choreographer, and director all at once.
CM: Can you tell us a bit about the process that got you to performing at the Cabaret Convention?
RL: There were around a dozen other singers, and we were all picked and invited to sing by the head of the Mabel Mercer Foundation. I became involved with the foundation in June. I competed in a Noël Coward competition that they held, and then I was invited back to sing for a benefit at the Dutch Treat Club—which is a literary and music club in New York—also with the foundation. And then the head of the convention, KT Sullivan, invited me to be a soloist at the convention, and I nearly fainted. I was so excited. It’s just been a dream of mine to perform at Lincoln Center.
CM: And you have your own cabaret show at 54 Below coming up on Oct. 20.
RL: I’ve been working on it now for about two months, and it’s all come together. Again, it was amazing to have that much creative direction. I made a set list, I scripted the patter, and now I just have to rehearse and rehearse until I finally perform it! It’s called “By Heart,” and that’s because in the show I talk about my love for words and words that I’ve memorized. I combine lyrics with poetry and quotes, and I bring together my two loves: writing and music.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.