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Amateur cabaret star coming out of his ‘giant, gay theater cocoon’

Courtesy of Liam Barnes

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For Dane Terry, space was not the final frontier, but the beginning of his life on stage.

Terry, a self-described “neo-cabaret” performer, will star in his first theatrical performance at The Green Room at Short North Stage, in the Garden Theater Friday and Saturday, with an original piece called “Cockpit: A Cosmic Cabaret.” The show is Terry’s first performance in a theater and the second show in the Short North Stage’s “Cabernet Cabaret” series.

With only a baby grand piano, Terry will tell the story of a cosmic traveler from outer space who interacts with humans through misread radio waves. Terry, a self-taught pianist, said his show is more “dark, bare-bones cabaret” than something people might imagine when they hear the word “cabaret.”

“It’s hard to explain, but the three words that describe it best are ‘surreal,’ ‘science-fiction’ and ‘cabaret,'” Terry said. “It’s going to be strange.”

Terry, 28, performed in Columbus bars for three years before moving to New York City in January 2011. He planned to pursue his music career, but lost his voice to “bad singing habits and maybe acid reflux,” he said.

After six months, Terry moved to San Francisco to play piano for a musician friend. He said his experience working around the music industry helped him realize he wanted to take his show to the stage.

Terry returned to Columbus with plans to take a break for a few months. Instead, he met Rick Gore, co-founder of Short North Stage, and agreed to be part of the “Cabernet Cabaret” series. Terry said working his previously written, original songs into a show with a character was challenging.

“I learned how to be me on stage for the last three years, and now all of a sudden I’m taking a step where I’m not Dane Terry, I’m characters,” Terry said. “If things go bad, I can’t fix it with a funny story about my parents.”

Terry said the step to theater was a “long time coming” and that his shows weren’t best-suited for the bars he has played at in the past.

“I’m coming out of my cocoon a little more — my giant, gay, theater cocoon,” Terry said, with a laugh.

Terry described his sense of humor in performances as dark and referenced the later seasons of “‘Kids in the Hall,’ when things got weird.” He said the show is edgy, but it covers every emotion and it’s a story that anyone can relate to.

“I think a good deal of Ohio State students are humans,” Terry said, “and this is a show specifically for humans.”

Gore said Terry’s contemporary music style is suitable for all ages, but is geared toward the college-aged crowd.

“The later show will be a little more vulgar than the early show,” Gore said. “It’s not expensive, it’s fun, you can come see a show and get dinner or drinks.”

Gore said The Green Room at the Garden Theater is a great stage for groups who might not have a place to perform in Columbus.

“Our main mission is to bring high quality performing arts back to the Short North,” Gore said. “There’s so much good talent, but not enough venues.”

Phil Kim, a graduate student in comparative studies, has seen Terry perform eight times and plans to attend the show. Kim said Terry’s piano playing alone is reason enough to attend.

“Dane is a piano virtuoso, his stage presence is incredible,” Kim said. “He’s very funny, but he can talk about serious things.”

Kim said Terry’s performances belong in the theater and he feels Terry is already a legend in Columbus.

“Dane is really good at being creative and different, intellectual but still remaining accessible,” Kim said. “I think college students would get it, but still be kind of challenged by it as well.”

The show runs Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.shortnorthstage.com for $10 or at the door for $12.

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