The Yale Dramatic Association’s executive board voted Tuesday night to retain “The Full Monty” as the fall 2008 main-stage musical, despite a petition drafted by two members of the organization protesting the production’s dearth of female roles.
Although board members also voted Tuesday to reject a second demand — for new show-selection criteria — they accepted the task of reassessing the mission and responsibilities of the Dramat, the largest undergraduate theater organization on campus.
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In early February, Dramat member Danielle Frimer ’10 and associate board member Mallory Baysek ’11 wrote a formal petition to the nine-member executive board opposing its choice of “The Full Monty,” which the board had chosen in accordance with the organization’s current play-selection procedure.
The pair then circulated a separate petition to obtain the 10 necessary signatures to convene a special Dramat meeting. At this meeting with fellow group members, Frimer and Baysek called on the board to choose a new production, revisit the organization’s extant mission statement and revise its play-selection criteria.
Dramat President Ashley Rodbro ’09 said the board considered gender in making its final decision, which they came to after organization members proposed, discussed and narrowed down a list of choices during a series of meetings.
“It is always our consideration to offer equal opportunity,” she said. “We take all things into consideration.”
Rodbro declined to comment further on the decision-making process, citing Dramat governance confidentiality policies.
Executive board members Eva Bitran ’09 and Alexandra Trow ’09 and associate board member Miles Jacoby ’11 referred questions to Rodbro.
When she and Baysek sent an e-mail explaining the yet-to-be-drafted petition to 42 other female members of the undergraduate acting community in February, Frimer said they received “over 40” responses from recipients saying they would be interested in signing the petition. But, because of time constraints, the petition has not yet been circulated for actual signatures, she said.
Frimer said she thinks the show’s inequitable gender distribution is problematic because the fall production is one of few chances for actresses to perform in a professionally directed musical at Yale.
“There are only three female roles. There is no substance,” she said of “The Full Monty.” “There is no possibility to have a learning experience for a female.”
Dramat member Ian Walker ’10 agreed, saying he thinks the Dramat should avoid shows with few female roles, such as “The Full Monty,” because they violate the organization’s mission of allowing undergraduates interested in theater to present their work to the Yale community.
“It IS the fall mainstage, one of the premier opportunities for actors to present their talents and their musical abilities, and excluding certain people is unfair,” Walker wrote in an e-mail.
Frimer said when she had voiced initial concerns at the first meeting after the petition, she simply assumed the board had missed the show’s inherent male bias. But she was wrong, she said.
“What came to light is that there is a discrepancy about what the aim of the organization is,” she said. “Most people think it is a producing organization and that they have little responsibility for the education of actors.”
But citing the nature of the production, some Dramat members said they do not consider the show’s gender distribution troubling.
Dramat member Sam Bolen ’10, who attended a February meeting during the show-selection process, said the organization strove to depart from the dark, intellectual musicals of previous years — this fall’s “Into the Woods,” for example. After much deliberation, he said, the board decided to try something new.
“I trust they made the right decision, and did not mean any harm to anyone,” he said. “I also respect their right to decide plays without obligations to reflecting the Yale demographic.”
The Dramat produces seven shows a year.