After slow start, theater sandbox begins season

On Thursday, students convened at 220 York St. to rap about Pokémon, stage a dramatic reading of the Black Eyed Peas’ song “Where Is The Love” and rant about uncooperative actors.

For seven years, the “Theater of Desire” has given students a space to showcase performance works in an informal way before their peers. Held in the absence of program founder and professor Deb Margolin, who is currently on sabbatical, Thursday’s nine-person session was the first of the semester and the first in three years to be run entirely by students.

The Theater of Desire invites students to come in and perform whatever they like, in forms including music, drama, poetry and performance art, student organizer Peregrine Heard ’12 said.

“We have had people lie down on stage and laugh,” Margolin, who is currently working on a show in New York, said. “There was someone who made us watch them eat a sandwich, and a fake presidential candidate [came] with a new campaign speech and a banjo every time we held the Theater.”

Heard and Timmia Hearn Feldman ’12 took over the workshop at the start of the semester. While the program commenced late this semester, due to Heard and Feldman’s commitments in other theater shows, Heard said they plan to hold sessions more regularly until the end of the semester.

The Theater of Desire used to be held every other Monday, Margolin said. Despite this semester’s slow start, she said she is optimistic about its continuation. When she left Yale for medical reasons in 2007-’08, Margolin said students kept the workshops going, holding them in different student apartments and dorm rooms.

Despite attendees’ enthusiasm, longtime participants Heard and Biondi said that fewer people turned out to Thursday’s event than typically came to Margolin’s sessions. Biondi said Margolin’s playwriting class promoted student engagement.

However, Heard said that the relatively low turnout was caused by rushed scheduling — not reduced interest. Though this week had fewer participants, Margolin said attendance also fluctuated under her direction, ranging between four and 50 students at different sessions.

She added that if this semester goes well, she would support a permanent change in Theater of Desire’s leadership and officially hand over the reins upon her return to Yale next semester.

“I’m totally willing to cede the floor to students,” she said. “I want it to serve the students, so we’ll see how it can best do that.”

One idea for the program’s expansion is to increase engagement between the theater and the Yale Cabaret, which serves a similar function by allowing graduate students to present less clearly defined and rehearsed work, Margolin said.

Jamie Biondi ’12 said the beauty of the program is that it resembles an open workshop, with students bringing in senior theses in progress and pieces that weren’t fully workshopped in playwriting classes.

The nine attendants at Thursday’s session performed perform works in a variety of genres. Tom Sanchez ’12 prepared a monologue from the novel, ‘The Princess Bride,’ which he said he wanted to share because it did not make it into the movie.

Spontaneity also factored into students’ performances. When Alexi Sargeant ’15 read a monologue comprising various Shakespeare quotes pieced together, Biondi said he was immediately inspired to follow with a poem he had not intended to read and Googled the work on the spot.

Margolin said she feels that the cabaret-style sessions fill a need for a space in which individuals can present their projects without fear of judgment. Gabriel Greenspan ’14 and Ryan Bowers ’14 presented a song from “Pokémon Musical,” a show they are currently writing that will go up in April.

“It’s really great as a ‘no anxiety, just do it’ atmosphere,” Andrew Freeburg ’13 said.

The date of the next session has not yet been set.

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