ISAAC’S SAYS ‘STAGE RIGHT’: About to start rehearsals for a new cabaret, Isaac Mizrahi will kick off the Bard Fisher Center’s summer season July 1 with “Ask Isaac.” During the one-night only, 80-minute event, the designer will field random questions from attendees in between songs. This week, Mizrahi will start trying out a new opening number, but should that flop he has an arsenal of proven favorites to bounce back with. Fans who have caught his shows in years past at the West Bank Café will once again hear his rendition of Peggy Lee’s “The Doodlin’ Song” and a R-rated version of Cole Porter’s “What is This Thing Called Love?” “The thing about cabaret is you just kind of let it happen. It’s like sitting in the lap of the audience and making them feel happy and sexy,” he said.
Mizrahi has rounded up some jazz musicians to accompany him, though he thinks it is hard to tell if they are super-embarrassed that the association is bad for their street cred, or if they see it as a really good gig. “It doesn’t matter. They are all so wonderful and all so cute. I don’t care how they play. I chose them based on how they look,” he said.
Kidding aside, Mizrahi should be more at ease with questions, having done numerous interviews for his retrospective at The Jewish Museum, which remains on view through August 7. But performing on his own can turn the “Project Runway All Stars” judge into a bucket of nerves. “Months before and weeks before it’s fine, but the day before is a nightmare. I have such horrible stage fright. I’m sure that’s what it’s all about, he said Friday. “That’s why the cabaret thing works beautifully for me because it allows me to be on my feet. I’m left to do what I’d like to do. When that happens, I’m not as nervous.”
For a little extra inspiration, Mizrahi caught Justin Vivian Bond’s recent “Kiki and Herb” show. And Sandra Bernhard’s one-woman-show for Guild Hall was also on his to-see list. “She is the queen of the cabaret. The thing is when I see her, for a minute I want to crawl up into a ball, thinking, ‘Who do I think I am even trying to do this?”
A recent cameo at City Winery left him “physically ill” with stage fright until he realized that people weren’t there to hate him, Mizrahi said. “It’s all about bravery. Oh my God — it is all stage fright management out there. But without it, you kind of just die.”
Squelching that angst is a necessary exercise, kind of like travel, another phobia of sorts that he has learned to manage. “If I don’t travel for a while, it gets worse,” he explained.
But it is not the in-flight time at 30,000 feet that sends his mind reeling. “I hate all of the textiles they use in airports and on airplanes. Airplane seats are so offensive. No one should sit on those for that long,” Mizrahi said.
The seven-week Bard SummerScape features opera, music, theater, dance, film and cabaret, capping off with the 27th annual Bard Music Festival, which this time around will be dedicated to Puccini. Another SummerScape highlight will be the world premiere of Dan Hurlin’s take on “Demolishing Everything With Amazing Speed.” First created in 1917 by the Italian Futurist Fortunato Depero, the Hudson Valley version will include four newly discovered plays envisioned with bunraku puppetry, 3-D printing and sound sampling. Depero was a renegade in his own time, as the only Italian Futurist to have relocated to the U.S. for a stretch where his designs appeared on the covers of Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.