Singer/songwriter Karen Gross ’01 entertained a full house–including local Wesleyan alumni–with her cabaretstyle performance, Sex and the Single Singer, at the Tin Angel, a prestigious music venue in Philadelphia, in July.
She describes the show as a one-woman comedic musical journey of the ups and downs of being single, and featuring standards, show tunes, contemporary and original music and “lots of sassy humor.”
An American Studies major at Wesleyan, she has performed professionally as a singersongwriter, vocalist, and pianist, as well as worked in journalism.
“I focused on pop culture, media and film, really looking at the world and critiquing it,” she says. “But on the back burner, I always knew I wanted to be a songwriter.”
In her senior year, as a fellow at the Center for the Humanities, she wrote and performed Conquistadoras: Adventures of Women Travelers.
“That was my first attempt at combining my two passions: journalism—I interviewed Wesleyan women who had traveled abroad alone—with songwriting.”
It was the thrill of hearing her audience laugh—and seeing that her work could touch them—that she recalled when, in 2005, she was given a booking at Odette’s Cabaret.
“I could do ‘Karen Gross Sings the Standards,’ or I could create my own show,” she thought, contemplating the venue. The previous year she had begun a journal, “little thoughts about living on my own and various dating dramas.” The cabaret format proved the perfect outlet for those tidbits.
“I scripted scenes and compiled a song list, including some originals. The title was a riff on Sex and the City, as well as Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl, which I reread— it’s very Wesleyan to go back to your texts,” she notes.
She also turned to the alumni network. “I met Jennifer Blaine ’92 at a Philadelphia alumni event a few years ago. An actress herself, she has become my comedy mentor. She helps me flesh out the humor in each of the characters, like a Jewish grandmother, and a pregnant girlfriend who wants to match me up with her mortgage broker.
“Lately, I’m hearing that lots of my Wesleyan friends are getting married and having babies. But we’ve all been single and I want to articulate that common experience. I want to show the joy and humor, the inner strength, as well as the hard times there.
“It was so sweet that Wesleyan sent an e-mail blast to tell people about the show. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in a while–and my mother [Barbara Danzger Gross ’71] and Jennifer Blaine were there, of course. I felt very supported. And the next day, the Tin Angel called to invite me back in October.”
Check www.karengross.com for updates and scheduled performances.