This season, the Yale Cabaret, the primary home for extracurricular productions mounted by students at the School of Drama, will follow a less hierarchical managing structure than in past years.
The theater will be run by three co-artistic directors, Whitney Dibo DRA ’14, Kelly Kerwin DRA ’15 and Lauren Dubowski DRA ’14, while the Cabaret had one head artistic director and two associate artistic directors last year. All three women said their experiences working in collaboration-based theater prior to attending the drama school informed their desire to bring this leadership model to the Yale Cabaret.
The three shows that have been announced so far, “We Know Edie la Minx Had a Gun,” “Dutchman” and “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World,” each represent a different method of generating theater, from collaboratively written work to a traditional script to purely devised performance.
The Cabaret’s new season will kick off this Thursday with “Edie,” which was written by Kerwin, Helen Jaksch DRA ’15 and Emily Zemba DRA ’15. Kerwin, who is also directing the show, added that “Edie” — as a play that “can’t be done anywhere else and [needs] to be done now” — exemplifies the artistic directors’ hopes for the season. The three women wrote “Edie” as a group with the physical space of the Cabaret and specific actors in their year in mind.
The play explores queer identity in the ’80s, a time period that laid the foundation for the language we use to describe queer rights today, Dibo said, adding that some of the terms used in the show might appear “harsh” to modern audiences inhabiting the highly progressive Yale bubble.
“We were really interested in exploring the idea of what it means to be a legend and how to tell the stories of the bit players of history and stories that haven’t been told — and also glitter and drag,” Kerwin said.
Though past Cabaret seasons have featured several shows directed by the theater’s leaders, the co-artistic directors will not direct any more shows this year after “Edie,” Kerwin said. Dibo said the new team instead hopes to serve in the new role of “creative producers”: one co-artistic director will be involved on each production in a curatorial capacity. She added that these creative producers will act as liaisons between each production team and the larger Cabaret staff and participate in the overall discussion of each show’s developing vision.
“We don’t want anything to be last minute, [but] last-minute changes happen all the time at the Cabaret,” Dibo said. “The original impulse [for a project] can get clouded as a result of things that come up. We are here to be a stable footing for each show.”
Each co-artistic director comes from a dramaturgy background and understands the importance of serving as an “outside eye” in the artistic process, Dubowski said. She added that dramaturgs receive the training to see theater holistically and from the perspective of an audience member walking in with no prior knowledge about the decisions that went into its creation.
“As dramaturgs we know that is an important role — to have someone who is invested in the artistic process but [is] also outside of it,” Dubowski said.
The second show, “Dutchman,” was written by Amiri Baraka in 1964, but the murky racial questions Brarka raises make it far from “a period piece” almost 50 years later, Dibo explained. The entire show takes place in a subway car, and begins when a white woman approaches a black man on the way to the same party as her. The small space of the Cabaret is “uniquely suited to feel claustrophobic like the New York subway,” Dibo explained.
The third show that has been announced, “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World,” is an entirely devised work, meaning that the creative team built the show experimentally with no baseline script. The show engages with “popular psychology” and “media and advertising and Internet,” Dubowski said, adding that the show’s creation process was inspired by clown work.
“‘The Most Beautiful Thing in the World’ is one of those Cabaret processes that is really bold and brave in that they are creating something out of nothing,” Dubowski said. “The cabaret is just a room in a building — without the people who fill it, it would just be a room. I think we have a very community-minded mission in terms of wanting to harness the power of the community to create the best.”
The rest of the Cabaret’s season will be announced on Sept. 19.