(HERE Artist Residency Program)

Stairway to Stardom Amanda Szeglowski/cakeface

Show Description

With crackling wit and startling honesty, the women of cakeface serve up a silver-sequined dissection of the American Dream. Synthesizing razor-sharp choreography and a poker-faced delivery of original text, the cast shatters the facade of "making it." Featuring live-mixed sound and visuals from electronic duo Prism House and clips from the 80s cult public access tv show of the same name, Stairway to Stardom honors the contributions of the wildly passionate but questionably talented among us.

In watching clips from the television show which aired in New York City from 1979 to the early 1990s, I was struck by the sheer commitment of the performers and the imbalance between their self-perception and an obvious reality. “Stairway to Stardom” was described by NPR as "an amateur talent show many see as a low-rent precursor to American Idol.” Filmed "in what appeared to be a freshly carpeted Staten Island basement,” the host Frank Masi would bring on amateur singers, dancers, actresses, and comedians to show off their questionable talents. The drive and emotion behind these performers’ eyes is palpable and yet, watching them you know they never achieved the success to which they strived. This piece endeavors to ask, “What happened?”

Photo by Benjamin Heller, Headshot by Maria Baranova

Artist Bio

Amanda Szeglowski, Artistic Director (cakeface), is a writer, director, choreographer and performing artist. She is a HERE Resident Artist and a recipient of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation's Women Playwrights Commissioning program. Formerly a Company Dancer with the internationally acclaimed Ellis Wood Dance (NYC) over a span of four years, she performed with the company throughout New York and on tour in locations such as Portugal, Germany, San Diego and Washington DC, and set work/taught at UC Berkeley and New York University, among others, all while also serving as the company’s Managing Director. Amanda launched her all-female company cakeface in 2008. As Culturebot describes, "cakeface is a group of fierce, funny, talented women" whose projects thread together intricate choreography and original, abstract scripts. cakeface projects contemplate the uncomfortable through the use of grim themes and an inherently wry female wit. Creative Loafing recently called Amanda's work “as disturbing as it is delightful" and Culturebot nailed it with “Think Monica Bill Barnes for the Amy Schumer Generation,” in their article, Eight Reasons cakeface’s Harold, I Hate You Is Your New Favorite Downtown Dance/Theater Piece.

cakeface has been presented by En Garde Arts, Stony Brook University, Ars Nova, Dance New Amsterdam, AUNTS, Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, Dixon Place, Triskelion Arts, RoofTop Dance with the Roger Smith Hotel, The Tank, Going Dutch (Chicago, IL), Smith & Tinker writers’ group, Hillsborough Community College, Rebound Dance Festival (New Haven, CT) and the Florida Dance Festival (Tampa, FL). With cakeface, Amanda has guest lectured at the University of South Florida, and taught master classes at the University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College, and Howard W. Blake School for the Arts. She also received a residency at Marble House Project this spring in Dorset, VT to further develop Stairway to Stardom. cakefaceart.com 

Artist Statement

For Stairway to Stardom I will continue to refine the aesthetic I’ve been honing with my company cakeface for the past 6 years. My work is it’s own hybrid form, equal parts dance, theatre and performance art. Performers have specific tempos, rhythms, repetitions, overlaps, and algorithm parameters to follow when delivering their lines. Choreography is developed from the text, or from themes inherent in the script and then integrated into the larger piece in intervals and/or continuously as hyper-detailed staging. 

Performed by five fearless dance artists: Ali Castro, Jade Daugherty, Ayesha Jordan, Nola Sporn Smith, and Amanda Szeglowski, Stairway to Stardom has an exceptional creative team.

The expansive set design, created by architect Aviva Novick, draws viewers into a surreal meta-world. 

Glamorous costumes by Oana Botez juxtaposed against the imminent failure of the subjects hint at an ultra-modern interpretation of the meaning of “talent.” 

The lighting, designed by Amanda K. Ringger, frames the environment by building atmospheric sensations and mood-altering designs, and the immersive visuals, by Matt O’Hare (one half of electronic duo Prism House), incorporate original video content that spotlights vintage clips from the television show to cement the conceptual landscape. 

Composer Brian Wenner (the other half of Prism House) is crafting an original electronic score, based on sampled noise sourced from the internet. The evolving ambient soundscape underscores the combination of highly physical choreography and cakeface’s signature style of text delivery.



Project Feed

Photo by Carl Skutsch


We performed an excerpt of Stairway to Stardom at HERE's 2017 MOXIE! Gala. Here are pics from a super fun night.  

photo by Theodore Samuels

cakeface performed Stairway to Stardom at the HERE Gala!

Here are some pics from HERE's May 23, 2016 ALCHEMY Gala at City Winery. We had a great time sharing an excerpt from Stairway to Stardom. Click here to see more photos from the evening.

photo by Benjamin Heller

STS photos from CULTUREMART 2016

Above are some of the photos from our CULTUREMART performances in March. Click here for lots more, all by Benjamin Heller.