A new Union City arts and culture club hosted its first evening of cabaret this past Monday night.
The NoHu (North Hudson) Cultural Center, housed in the St. John’s Episcopal Church at 1516 Palisade Ave., lined up local entertainers including a tarot card reader and Broadway actress, as well as talent from New York City, for the Cabaret Premieres.
Founded by a Weehawken couple, James and Toni Fukuda, the center was created in response to a growing number of artists and musicians in the community and an increasing need for a local venue for the arts. Thanks to the support of St. John’s, the center now has a multifunctional space in the church’s basement.
“The idea is that this will be a venue for theater, performing arts, and art,” said Toni Fukuda.
The center hosts all kinds of shows, including classical and improvisational theater and musical performances. But Monday night, it was all about cabaret.
“Cabaret could either be jazz; it could be songs; it could be comedy,” said Fukuda. The night featured Broadway tunes, poetry readings, classical and jazz piano, and fortune telling.
Performers said they enjoyed the evening’s cabaret style.
“At least, for me, it works fantastic because it gives me the energy that I need,” said Jay Gonzalez, who read a selection of poems in Spanish. “I need it because I love people, and the closer I get to the people, the more I get into myself and the better the art.”
Catherine Fries Vaughn, a Weehawken resident who once played in a lead role in a Los Angeles production of the Broadway musical “Cats,” sang a few of her favorite songs.
“When you are hired to do a part, you are given what you have to do,” she said. “In a cabaret, you can choose what you want to do and it has meaning for you.”
“I was really surprised by the talented entertainers that showed up to give such performances from the heart and soul.” – James Jacob Pierri
“I was really surprised by the talented entertainers that showed up to give such performances from the heart and soul,” he said. “That was a little unexpected surprise. Just the whole thing was kind of unexpected.”
Fukuda said that that is the purpose of the center, to have a venue for people in the community to come together to enjoy the arts and become more aware of what arts are available right here in Hudson County.
Important to the scene
Lucio Fernandez, the recipient of several prestigious acting awards and a Union City commissioner, said that it is commendable what the Fukudas are trying to do, especially since there are so few places in the area where the local arts can flourish.
“The most important aspect for me is that they are giving the artists an opportunity, and not only with the space, but also with support,” he said.
Later, he added, “I love the arts, and anything that has to do with the arts I am going to support wholeheartedly, especially in my hometown.”
At the event, Fernandez performed three poems, including one of his own called “Middle of the Night.”
“It’s about waking up in the middle of the night and not having anyone there, how scary it could be,” he said. “I wrote it because I have such a great relationship with my wife. It is [about] the feeling of her not being there, how I would feel if she wasn’t there.” He added that the poem is not all sad, but has a positive twist.
The next cabaret night will be held on Monday, May 4. Fukuda said she hopes to make it a regular event every month, or maybe even every two weeks.
“The idea is to have performances every two weeks, so people know that there is always something going on,” she said. She added that several local performers and artists have already approached her about appearing in the next show.
“For each performance, we are going to try to have a mix of different groups,” she said.
For an entrance fee, the center accepts $5 donation at the door. The money goes right back to developing the space, said Fukuda. The center recently expanded its stage.
For more information on the NoHu Cultural Center and its events, call (201) 927-3466.
Amanda Staab can be reached at email@example.com.