Student-written ‘Generations’ puts family on the stage

“Generations,” written by Jesse Schreck ’14, investigates how people are shaped by their families and forces outside their control.
“Generations,” written by Jesse Schreck ’14, investigates how people are shaped by their families and forces outside their control. Photo by Yale Dramat.

This weekend, the Yale Dramat will stage a student-written play for the first time in roughly two years.

“Generations,” written by Jesse Schreck ’14 and directed by Zeke Blackwell ’13, is the Dramat’s first spring experimental production this year. The play tells the story of the Rothberg family through a series of significant moments, which do not always unfold along a linear timeline. Schreck said that by staging his first full-length play through the Dramat, with a nearly professional budget and space, he gained an experience most playwrights do not have until they are well-established in the “real world.”

Dramat President Yuvika Tolani ’14 said the Dramat has a long history of serving as a vehicle for student authors to premiere their shows — Cole Porter in 1913, for instance, debuted several of his early musicals through the organization. She added that the number of student-written shows in a given season fluctuates based on student interest and the proposals the Dramat receives.

Schreck said he wrote the show in reaction to the idea of the autonomous, self-created individual with which many Americans — and Yale students — were raised. He explained that this view obscures the extent to which people are shaped by family and influences beyond their control.

Amy Napleton ’14, who plays Sarah Rothberg, the mother, said telling the story in a way that bends time allows the audience to get a more realistic view of the family, because family relationships involve an awareness of past, present and future that many other relationships do not.

“It’s such a complicated amalgamation of scenes and snippets of life,” Napleton said.

Schreck said he thinks “Generations” is a good fit for the Dramat since it gives the organization’s skilled designers and technicians the creative opportunity to develop a design completely from scratch — Schreck had only written minimal lighting or design instructions into the script itself.

“In poetry what you’re writing is the final product,” Schreck said. “I’m writing a two-dimensional blue print for something made to be animated in three dimensions.”

Kyle Clark ’13, who plays the role of Greg Rothberg, the father, said having Schreck in the room for about 70 percent of rehearsals allowed the actors’ interpretations to affect how Schreck saw the characters as well. Napleton said having the writer in the room was a huge asset to the actors, but also increased the pressure to do justice to the play’s words.

“This very solitary writing process translates to 20 people in a room working to animate the story I put on paper,” Schreck said. “It’s very humbling and ridiculous.”

Clark said one of the challenges of acting in the production is creating a believable sense of family with a group of people who are all the same age. He explained that he found developing his role a particular challenge since he could not necessarily apply his personal instincts to the character as much as he would normally.

“The way a senior in college would approach a problem is very different from the way a father would,” he said.

Clark added the script forces one to look at the characters in context of all the others, rather than merely as individuals.

“Generations” will run Feb. 14 to 16 at the Iseman Theater.

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