An Interview with La-Ti-Do’s DonMike Mendoza and Regie Cabico by Rick Westerkamp

1601254_624831210887693_520906185_nOn Monday nights for the past two years, the DC/MD/VA area’s artists and arts enthusiasts alike have been packing the Black Fox Lounge in DuPont Circle, eager to take in that week’s set list of musical theatre, spoken word, and everything in between. Last June, La-Ti-Do began a New York City happening at the Bowery Poetry Club, further expanding the reach and the community of artists that call La-Ti-Do home. Co-Founders DonMike Mendoza and Regie Cabico, and Resident Pianist Jonathan Tuzman are not only dynamic artists in their respective crafts but they have worked together to foster a warm and welcoming community of performers and audience members.

The first time I attended La-Ti-Do was to watch a friend perform a set of songs. I was immediately drawn to the intimate performance environment. The bar at the back of the room and the close proximity of the audience to the performer makes for a relaxed atmosphere, as well as an atmosphere where you cannot avoid the art being performed. I love that. Once the performance began, I responded to the caliber of talent each performer on the set list possessed. I wanted to sign up to sing on a Monday in the not-too-distant future before the set was even over, but not for the traditional reasons. Sure, I love to perform, but I wanted to know the artists behind this event and meet the other artists performing, some of whom I had admired in performances on some of DC’s biggest stages.

Fast-forward a year, and I have performed a couple of times at La-Ti-Do, as well as attended a bunch of performances. I also met the writer/composer of the Capital Fringe Festival show I performed in this past summer through a La-Ti-Do performance. I’ve had the chance to get to know DonMike Mendoza and Regie Cabico as artists and as people and wanted to ask them a couple questions that came to mind, with the 2nd Anniversary of La-Ti-Do this coming Thursday!!

Rick: What has surprised you the most about your past two years working on La-Ti-Do?

Don Mike Mendoza.

DonMike Mendoza.

DonMike: I want to say it is the overwhelming support that has come from the DC artistic community. It is the wonderful, talented artists that come through every week that show we’re doing something good, which makes me extremely proud to be the Executive Artistic Director. Along with that, the exponential growth of the organization in such a short amount of time has been amazing to watch! Two years, every week, and now two cities. It’s crazy and so gratifying!

Regie: It’s phenomenal to create an artistic movement that is so out of the box. We are not a theater company but we have blurred the lines to showcase cabaret performance and been an open forum for theater artists and wordsmiths from within DC and abroad to showcase their talents. We have produced over 52 performances a year-that’s also staggering.

DonMike, coming from a musical background, and Regie, coming from a spoken word background, what have you learned about/from the performers of the opposite art form in the past two years of La-Ti-Do performances?

DonMike: I’ve learned that poets will not hide anything in their art. I love the honesty that comes from their work and what really hits me is that I get to watch people telling their own stories. As an actor, I live to tell other people’s stories supplemented with my own life experiences, but it’s so special to hear about someone’s joy or pain directly from the source.

Regie: Performers of both genres have been humble and generous. The two forms ultimately come back to storytelling. The spoken word community really appreciates the new audiences.

If you could wish for one thing for La-Ti-Do‘s future, what would that be and why?

DonMike: I want to move into the educational sphere with workshops and also do more community work. We’ve figured out our show structure, but now it’s time to reach out beyond Black Fox Lounge and partner with other organizations. I would like La-Ti-Do not only to be a place to be entertained, but also a resource for growth and learning.

Regie Cabico.

Regie Cabico.

Regie: I would like us to become our own performance venue and have the capacity, and resources, to program every night. My life as a performer is so hectic, the one thing that makes DonMike and I happy is La Ti Do. No matter what your week was like, La Ti Do makes everyone feel better.

What moment in the past two years of La-Ti-Do is the most memorable?

DonMike: The most memorable moment would be when we reached our 1.5-year milestone and also launched in New York City in the same month. It made me so happy to know that we could provide what we do to more than one city and that we’ve done so much in the short time we’ve been around. As someone who was new to the community when I graduated, it really made me excited that I’ve made my own mark in the artistic world.

Regie: Our Smash performance with a star-studded cast was so thrilling. The three-piece band and the coming together of so many artists to create an unprecedented theatrical event were really memorable. Also DonMike and Will Gartshore wore wigs and sang “Let Me Be Your Star,” and I got to sing “September Song” with an Anjelica Huston wig.  Also, the moments like last night when Ines Nassara, a young star in the making, brought us to tears with “How I Loved You.” There are so many moments: Pomme Koch singing “Faith” by George Michael, to a harmonized kazoo of Game of Thrones. Nora Palka singing “Summertime,” or Mary Payne’s New Year’s Eve set.

Left to Right: Hosts Regie Cabico and DonMike Mendoza.

Left to Right: Hosts Regie Cabico and DonMike Mendoza.

Only two years old, and already so many memorable moments and momentous occasions have happened at La-Ti-Do. If you would like to celebrate with the community of artists that call La-Ti-Do their home, come to the Black Fox Lounge tomorrow, Thursday, January 23rd from 7 pm-10 pm, throw back a couple La-Ti-Do-tinis and relish in the musical and spoken word stylings of DC!!

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DC METRO logo work3

LA-TI-DO is the Winner of A Special Award in 2012 and 2013 on DCMetroTheaterArts:

La-Ti-Do has filled a void in the DC arts scene, with their weekly cabaret performances of music and spoken word. Their events not only simultaneously showcased up-and-coming and professional artists, but they fostered the community of artists in the DC/MD/VA area.”

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