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A Contemplative Burlesque


A Contemplative Burlesque


Zen Cabaret: a contemplative burlesque is the illegal marriage of Buddhist contemplative art and lowbrow humor. Zen Cabaret first enchanted audiences in Los Angeles as part of an avant-garde music series and went on to play a variety of venues, including theaters, nightclubs, a Hollywood rooftop, a cavernous art gallery, and a wedding in the California redwoods. Each version is tailored to fit its particular venue and is comprised of a unique and dynamic collection of collaborators drawn from the community in which it appears. Consequently, no two shows are alike.

Zen Cabaret's creator, Nina Rolle, is a hybrid artist - singer, composer, voiceover actor, writer, dharma artist, clown - and pioneer in the genre of Sonic Theater. Enlisting an ever-changing cast of players, always dubbed The Rogue Elements, Rolle’s Zen Cabaret relies on a playful and random cross-pollination with artists of varied disciplines to create surprising and hilarious venue-specific experimental music performed with physical comedy, audience participation, homemade instruments and Absurdist Retail Therapy.

The process of creating and performing Zen Cabaret is rooted in the Buddhist practice of non-aggression, and its close relative, generosity.  Taking on the form of a traveling medicine show, Zen Cabaret satirizes the evangelism of capitalist excess and endeavors to subvert the widely held societal belief in scarcity and cynicism in order to plant the seeds of a Culture of Generosity.


Zen Cabaret is,
among other things,
an hour or two of live performance
designed to take you on a Sonic Journey.
It is a collection song, story, movement poetry,
social commentary, animal sounds,
clowns, shadow, stillness.
homemade instruments,
and accordions.

All of the material is original
unless, of course, it is borrowed from friends,
stolen from better artists,
or public domain.

Zen Cabaret is a Song Cycle,
a Poetry Reading,
Live Animation, a fable.
It's Sonic Theater.
It's a Turn Band.
It's a genre, a practice, a verb.
Zen Cabaret is definitely a Verb.
It's a way of listening.
It's three-dimensional, visual music.
It's a Culture indigenous to the merge lane.
It's permission galore.
It's a Tortoise, traveling since the beginning of Time.
Where next?

Zen Cabaret can elude definition,
but you know it when you see it
or hear it.
It's a great way to spend your evening
...or money.

Zen Cabaret is a Traveling Medicine Show, available for booking.