A new sign dangling on Park Street, featuring yellow, blue and pink rectangles in different planes, marks more than just the location of the Yale Cabaret: It’s a sign that the Cabaret is changing.
Under new directors and with the new motto “Shifting perspectives in performance” the School of Drama’s theatrical playground has acquired a new logo, a new website, a refurbished stage and an edgy paint job. But these are the physical manifestations of a deeper change in artistic vision that aims to blur boundaries between artistic disciplines and allow staff members to take on roles outside their fields of study. All of this, Cabaret artistic director Andrew Kelsey DRA ’11 said, is part of a mission to make the Cabaret a more welcoming and accessible space on campus.
“This should not be a darkened corner on campus that nobody can find, but rather the artistic living room for everyone in this community,” Kelsey said.
Indeed, the black box theater at 217 Park St. is no ordinary living room.
The space has been newly renovated to emphasize the juxtaposition of two dimensional and three dimensional objects in the building. Rather than hide imperfections in the building, the new paint highlights them, with three-dimensional images jumping out from the two-dimensional walls. A pink marquee at the entrance, for example, looks like a flat two-tone pink corkboard from one angle and a three-dimensional box from another, said Elliott Quick DRA ’12, associate artistic director of the Cabaret. The pipes in the basement, far from neatly out of sight, are painted a bright array of colors, with a thick gold pipe nicknamed “bling” by the Cabaret staff.
Quick explained that the Cabaret directors collaborated with architect James Michael Tate ARC ’07 to find ways to shift patrons’ perspectives from the minute they walk into the lobby. Thin lines are pasted on the wall to form two parallelograms, and the color between the lines appears to change from blue to green as an observer passes, emphasizing a shifting perspective.
Tate said the bland grey tops, if looked at head-on, make the parallelograms recede into the wall, and each of the two parallelograms is painted the same color blue and green, but the angle of the light makes them look two-toned — another perception trick.
Tate also left some wall space gray as an open canvas for artists to showcase their work. A growing, tiled wall pattern allows artists and patrons to write dedications on their own orange,paper tile and seal it on the wall, as a secret between the community member and the theater, Kelsey said.
The new aesthetics correlate with the kind of culture the directors said they are hoping to create — one that makes transitions, not just between 2-D and 3-D, but also among artistic disciplines.
Kelsey explained that the directors have expanded their senior staff this year to include more people who are working outside their established areas of study in order to push people’s comfort zones and invite different perspectives. For example, the Cabaret’s artistic producer is a playwright, while the associate artistic director is a dramaturg. Kelsey himself, an acting student, is the first Cabaret director in three years who is not studying directing at the School of Drama.
“We’re the Drama School,” Cabaret managing director Tara Kayton DRA ’11 said. “We are always wanting to push boundaries and change things.”
The semester’s first three shows already breach traditional disciplinary roles, with playwrights, dramaturgs and stage managers all performing onstage.
Kelsey added that one of his team’s goals is to reach out to the Divinity School, Yale College and the wider New Haven community, as well as to artists in New York City, to build a stronger artist-patron relationship. Connecting with patrons is important both to foster a community vibe and for financial stability, Kayton said. Without a University subsidy, the Cabaret raises all its funds annually through kitchen and ticket sales, as well as solicited donations. A reserve of annual surplus ensures that every team gets a fresh start if a previous team experiences a deficit and also provides for long-term projects such as this year’s new theater deck — a raised floor that serves as a stage.
The Cabaret also has a new website this year — “clean, fresh and dynamic,” Kayton said. It is the first Cabaret website to incorporate Twitter and Facebook updates.
The season’s first original performance, “Good Words: A Memorial with Music for Paul Everett Tarsus.” opens Sept. 16.