YSO show features Woody Allen

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Photo by Selen Uman.

Attendees of the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s annual Halloween Show were surprised when renowned director and actor Woody Allen appeared on screen.

Roughly 2,700 students crammed into Woolsey Hall late Monday night for the show, which featured cameos by administrators such as Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Provost Peter Salovey in addition to Allen. Alex Ciccone ’13, director, producer and screenwriter of the silent film “Midnight in New Haven,” which accompanied the orchestra’s live concert, said he tried to build off of last year’s emphasis on producing a high-quality film and incorporated elements of Allen’s methods into the video.

The film, which members of the orchestra first saw only Saturday, began by mirroring Allen’s cinematic style with a montage of familiar Yale and New Haven locations during freshman move-in day. The story then follows a Yale sophomore named Alex, played by Alex Vourtsanis ’14, as he travels back in time and accidentally alters Yale’s fate. By leaving his book “The Secret History of Yale” in the past, he enables Mr. H (Harvard) and Mr. P (Princeton) to kidnap the characters of Salovey and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who played fictitious historical versions of themselves. After returning to the present, Alex realizes that his mistake has resulted in a fate he finds unbearable: Yale has combined with Quinnipiac to form Yalipac and has welcomed Harvard as its sister school. Alex then returns to the past to save Gentry and Salovey, who fist-bumped and swayed to music at Mory’s before their unexpected kidnapping. Despite their misfortunes, Gentry and Salovey retain their comic personas as they struggle together to free themselves from ropes at the top of Harkness Tower.

“I really like it when I am paired with my acting buddy Dean Gentry,” Salovey said.

Gentry reciprocated, saying that he enjoys working with the “world-class cast” of his fellow administrators each year at the show.

Miller, whose primary acting responsibility was making funny facial expressions in reaction to learning that Harvard and Princeton were behind the abduction of her colleagues, said she appreciates the chance to interact with YSO musicians as they have “developed their artistic missions.”

Ciccone said he was proud of the film’s portrayal of Allen with the Yale administrators. The film utilized camera angles and color corrections to make it appear as if Allen was in the same room as administrators when he reacts to news of Salovey and Gentry’s kidnapping, when in fact the scenes with Allen were recorded separately in New York City.

All five audience members interviewed said that they thought the film was well-made and found the show entertaining. Yumiko Nakamura ’15 said that the film exceeded all of her expectations, and Ben Robbins ’12 said the show has the greatest cinematography of the three YSO Halloween shows he has seen in his Yale career.

Though the show lasted roughly 50 minutes, planning began in May. Ciccone, a film studies major, said he rewrote the 16-page script several times until it was completed in late August. After consulting his script with YSO Director Wells Andres ’13 in June, Ciccone began reaching out to the film’s leads, Vourtsanis and Claire Solomon ’14, as well as administrators.

The production process began around the beginning of the semester and concluded about two weeks ago, Ciccone said.

Ciccone said he selected the majority of the production’s numbers over the course of filming, and the YSO began practicing the songs last Wednesday, though he added that many members were already familiar with some of the songs. Michael Li, the YSO Halloween Show conductor, said his role was to “strike a good balance between the musical integrity and the visual aspect of the film.” Li said that the orchestra rehearsed for 12 hours over the course of four meetings last week.

The annual performance began in the 1970s as a full-symphony, Halloween-spirited show before it evolved to incorporate Yale-centric skits and videos.

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