Stars shine at Black Cat
BIANCA SAPETTO shares her incredible performance skills as the artistic director of the third annual Black Cat Cabaret.
Edward Casati/Special to the Index-Tribune
She was an alternate on the U.S. rhythmic gymnastics team when she was just 16, and went on to take the stage in more than a thousand shows with Cirque du Soleil as well as performing at the Grammy Awards and in films such as "The Matrix Reloaded."
He is one of the only guitarists on the planet to perform with two of the most influential bands in heavy metal history - Guns N' Roses and Nine Inch Nails.
Together, they're pulling together a show that will undoubtedly get people talking while also raising money for Pets Lifeline.
Bianca Sapetto returns to Sonoma as the artistic director for the third annual Black Cat Cabaret, while her husband, Robin Finck, will serve as the show's musical director. The event takes place in the Field of Dreams on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16 and 17, but tickets are on sale now for the premiere fundraiser of the Valley's only animal shelter.
"It felt like a wonderful thing to do for the community and the community of animals," Sapetto said, adding that the pair revels in a chance to work together. "Our careers take us to very different places, but we make sure to reunite and do something creative together, and that's usually over causes we're both passionate about."
Pets Lifeline Executive Director Nancy King said she was thrilled to have artists of this caliber directing this year's show. "Bianca has been with Black Cat since the beginning, in fact the first year she was the Black Cat mistress of ceremonies," King said. "We're very fortunate to have them together this year."
Sapetto has been commanding an audience since she was a child, winning her first national rhythmic gymnastic competition at the age of 8. Throughout her gymnastics career, she competed in eight countries and brought home five national titles. But eventually, the pressure began to wear on her, and in her senior year of high school she stepped away from the competitive circuit.
Her time off the stage proved short-lived, however, as she quickly got involved with the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil, where she learned new skills as an aerialist doing death-defying flips, twists and poses while hanging from sheets of fabric strung high in the air. She was exhilarated by the experience of getting in touch with her artistic side compared to the more athletic focus in gymnastics.
"(Gymnastics) is less about artistic expression than it is about perfect execution," she said. "Once I stopped competing, I started exploring those skills and techniques I had honed, but this time as an artist ... I was no longer a race horse with blinders on."
It was during her work with Cirque that she met and fell in love with Finck as the pair toured the country with the show "Quidam," in which he played guitar and she performed as an arealist while also choreographing. The couple married in 2001 and this year welcomed their first child, Sofia Penelope, who was born just seven weeks before Sapetto took to the giant Spiegel tent in San Francisco to perform, choreograph and associate direct for Teatro Zinzanni.
"I had to start training two weeks after she was born," Sapetto said.
Sapetto has just wrapped up her contract with the San Francisco circus group and will spend the next few weeks working with Finck to arrange the Black Cat Cabaret, which Sapetto said will come down to casting. Performers from Cirque and Teatro Zinzanni are slated to perform, along with Grammy award winning singer and actress Thelma Houston. Sapetto said once the cast and the musicians are in place, she and Finck can begin to create the story and feeling of the show.
"Sometimes we need to amp up the show to get the blood pumping, other times we need to smooth it out," she said, adding that while they'll sketch out rough ideas, most of the show will come together the week of the event when they finally have all of the performers together. "We're kind of doing the impossible, putting together a two-hour show in two days. But that's the magic of theater, it all sort of comes together in the end."
Sapetto has worked with some of the biggest names in show business, performing with the Black Eyed Peas at the 2009 Teen's Choice Awards, opening the Miss Universe competition in 2000 and sharing the stage with Aerosmith at the 2001 American Music Awards. But she said the politics of major performances can grow tiresome, and she spends 30 percent of her working hours creating free shows for nonprofit organizations she and her husband are passionate about.
"It's so much more fun to do things like this, where it's just about putting on a great show for the community and raising a lot of money for animals," she said.
Sapetto was also instrumental in bringing in a new feature of the popular fundraiser. The Black Cat Cabaret has always boasted a sexy side that gives the show its titillating edge.
"We heard a lot of feedback from parents who wanted to bring their children but felt the show wasn't appropriate for young children," King said. "Bianca was the one who gave us the idea to bring in the kids."
New this year, the Black Cat Cabaret will offer a Saturday afternoon matinee for kids, by kids. The Los Angeles-based performance troupe Le Petit Cirque, featuring children from ages 6 to 14, offer up circus and aerial acts in a totally kid-friendly environment. Tickets are $50 for the 1 p.m. show.
Tickets to the main performances on Friday and Saturday nights range in price. The Top Dog tickets for $250 include the best seats in the house, a pre-show reception where Smoke Catering will offer up fanciful circus foods and a chance to meet the artists after the show, among other perks. Cool Cat tickets are $175 and include second tiered seating as well as the pre-show reception.
Tickets can be purchased through the Sonoma Valley Box Office at the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St.; by phone at 938-2646, ext. 1; or online at www.sonomacommunitycenter.org and click on the Box Office link. It is recommended to purchase tickets early as this show sells out.
For more information on the Black Cat Cabaret or the services offered by Pets Lifeline, visit www.petslifeline.org.