Spring lineup stuffed for theater community

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Photo by McKay Nield.

After a relatively slow fall theater season, some undergraduates are worried that the jam-packed spring will result in heavy scheduling pressure on the theater community.

According to the Yale Drama Coalition website, 23 shows will have gone up by the end of this semester, including productions by the Yale Dramatic Association, senior projects put up with assistance from the Theater Studies department, as well as independent projects. 28 shows were produced last fall and 44 in the spring, compared with 30 in fall 2009 and 43 in spring 2010. Though the number of spring shows has not yet been set, members of the undergraduate theater community said that while the fall typically features fewer shows, this year’s unusual fall-spring production ratio raised concerns of spreading actors, technicians and venues too thin next semester.

Kathryn Krier DRA ’07, coordinator of next semester’s Shakespeare at Yale program, said the increase in the number of shows next spring is partially due to the high number of students who applied to the Shakespeare Challenge, an initiative that provides students funding to organize Shakespeare-related events. Shakespeare at Yale is a semester-long program that will organize events on campus to celebrate the Bard’s work, including theatrical performances, films and art exhibitions. The program, Krier said, has inspired people who normally would not put up shows to do so.

“Next semester is flooded with shows,” undergraduate actor Sara Hendel ’14 said.

But, Hendel said, this wealth of performances may have its downsides. She said the uptick is already causing difficulties for a number of shows as they fight for resources.

Hendel said some directors are attempting to put up spring shows without securing full production crews first. At the same time, she added, more shows are holding early auditions this semester to ensure that actors commit, with some directors attempting to fill roles before open auditions.

Laurel Durning-Hammond ’14, who stars in next weekend’s production of “Sweeney Todd,” said one stress actors face is that not all auditions are held at the same time, the way they are in the fall.

This atypical audition schedule, which includes holding try-outs as early as reading week, could open up directors to the risk of actor desertion, Hendel said — actors that are cast in early December may jump ship as better opportunities appear in January.

Technical crews will also feel an added strain, said Charlie Croom ’12, co-president of the Yale Drama Coalition and a former photo editor for the News.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the limited number of lighting designers, particularly in situations like one weekend in April on which four shows are already scheduled to be held,” he said. “Who’s going to light all those shows?”

Stuart Teal ’14, who manages use of the Saybrook Underbrook, one of eight theater venues available to all undergraduates, said he foresees higher competition arising among directors trying to book the space. The spring, he said, will be a “mess” with so many shows.

Still, Yale Dramatic Association President Lily Lamb-Atkinson ’12 said that though the full season may add stress for those who are already involved in theater at Yale, openings for actors and technical designers could draw in new talent. Expanding participation will benefit the theater community, she said.

And estimates of how many shows will go up may be overoptimistic, said Ryan Bowers ’14.

“It’s very easy to put shows on the YDC website,” he said. “I think people are blurring the line between talking about a show and actually doing one.”

Despite student concerns, officials from the Yale College Office of Undergraduate Productions said they are prepared for the abnormally busy spring season. Tom Delgado, technical director at the OUP, said next semester the office is hiring more house managers — student employees who provide technical support to shows — who will play an important role in facilitating production development. The only problems that may arise, he said, would be due to last-minute decisions to put up shows.

Krier said Shakespeare at Yale has not significantly changed the distribution of senior projects — two were produced this fall, as opposed to three last fall.

Theater Studies major Timmia Hearn Feldman ’12 said that the reduced number of senior projects this fall may be related to the cooperative spirit of the graduating Theater Studies class, with high numbers of collaborative senior projects and, therefore, fewer shows overall, across both fall and spring.

But many seniors are choosing to do their senior projects in the spring, Jamie Biondi ’12 said, because of the funding and faculty involvement offered by participating in Shakespeare at Yale.

The first show in the spring drama season will be Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” which runs from Jan. 18-21.

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