Palmer has attempted to bring Bogart's work to a wider audience for years. She wanted him to direct The Onion Cellar. It didn't fly. "I went to the ART and I said, 'I want Steve Bogart to do the show. He's the director that will do this well and understand it,' " says Palmer. "They wouldn't take him because he's a high school drama teacher."
She attempted to score Bogart-directed productions at the Berkley Repertory Theater and the Sydney Opera House, but both fell through. She finally convinced the ART to let him direct Cabaret earlier this year.
"I cast her as a freshman in A Midsummer Night's Dream as a fairy," Bogart says. "I saw her as a fringe kid. I don't know what the style was back then [but] all their clothes were ripped, they wore weird skirts over pants and tutus and strange things."
Bogart is subdued as he remembers Palmer as a teenager, but he lights up when he talks about his teaching methodology. "I try to give the kids ownership," he says. "The material that comes out is their material that they're exploring that's inside of them."
Though he's grateful for his former student's attempts to win him international recognition, he still seems a little surprised that she made the effort.
"I've been through this now, talking a lot to theaters, and it got to the point where it was like, okay, here we go again," Bogart says. "And when she said, they want to do this, 'Let's go talk,' part of me was like, 'Oh, here we go again. I'm just tired of this now. I don't want to talk to another theater . . .' [But] it turned out to be real this time."
"I have such mixed feelings about Bogart," Palmer tells me later. I could tell she knew I'd quote her on it. "On one hand, I see what he does and nurtures at the high school, and it's golden. But I also look at him — he's this genius director — and I think more people outside of Lexington, Mass., need to see this guy's work."
The Sunday of the second week of rehearsals, Palmer gathers the cast of Cabaret at her apartment for cocktails. Palmer still lives in what's known as the Cloud Club, a multi-story brownstone perpetually bedecked in Christmas lights. On the buzzer, "Amanda Palmer" is written in a florid script in what appears to be black nail polish.
"You [can] look at the whole of my life as a gigantic, multi-purpose party," Palmer tells me. "Since I was a little girl, I've loved the idea of creating this . . . crazy life art party environment where everyone is doing something kooky and there's a lot of give and take and it isn't so much about being famous or being loved but about having a lot of cool friends."
When I arrive with a Phoenix photographer and the first guests, Palmer answers the door in her kimono and wet hair. She leads us up to the top floor, an attic space plastered in strange, white, organic shapes that resemble an outsize cobweb. I climb a lacquered tree stump to a crawl space topped with a geodesic dome, where I find musical director Debra Barsha taking in the view of the skyline.