Cabaret play explores artistic creation

The newest production at the Yale Cabaret will offer audiences a glimpse into the mental turmoil artists experience during the creative process.

“Crave,” a play written by Sarah Kane, will open Thursday night at the Yale Cabaret. The performance focuses on a playwright named “M,” who struggles to write a piece before a deadline. Throughout the play, M — whose initial stands for ‘Mother’ — is constantly in conversation with three other characters that exist within her mind and represent different aspects of her personality. Han Sol Jung DRA ’14, the show’s director, said she thinks play’s title evokes the human desire to interact with others by sharing the products of one’s creativity.

“We have a ‘craving’ to create and then receive something back from the rest of the world, like empathy or recognition,” Jung said. “I am positing that we create in order to communicate with others.”

Jung said that the original play does not have a definitive plot or setting and has been interpreted in many different ways by directors in the past, noting that the first performance of “Crave” featured four actors sitting in rotating chairs for the entire show. She explained that because the characters do not have formal names and the play’s script does not contain any stage directions, directors have a lot of artistic freedom in how they interpret the play’s meaning. Jung said her interpretation stems from a question she frequently ponders: the question of why people choose to pursue the arts as a career.

“Art doesn’t really pay and is mostly agonizing and lonely, so why do we stick with this profession?” she said. “I try to deal with that question in the play.”

The play features three other characters ­— A, B and C — which stand for ‘Atheist’, ‘Boy’ and ‘Child’ according to Kane’s original script. Sally Shen SOM ’15, the show’s producer, said these characters can be interpreted as voices in M’s mind trying to influence the piece she is writing. Jung said she thinks that A represents the creative side of M that invents new topics for her to write about, B embodies M’s romantic sentiments and C reflects M’s need for comfort and assurance. The interactions between these characters, Jung noted, suggest that the act of creation is always connected to the desire for affection and acknowledgment.

The four actors interviewed said that in this particular production, the characters are symbols, noting that their names should not be interpreted literally. They are “collages of many different ideas and images,” Jung said. David Clauson DRA ’16, who plays B, said that while his character is technically named “Boy,” his role is more akin to that of a “Boyfriend,” explaining that he thinks his role represents the memory of M’s former lover. Helen Jaksch DRA ’15, who plays M, said the playwright never specified whether her character is a mother in the literal sense, explaining that this production highlights her role as a creator in general.

The protagonist M is the only character that exists in the physical world of the play. Though all characters are on stage throughout the performance, Jung said, A, B and C are mental projections that M constructs as she is writing the piece.

The set is designed to make members of the audience feel as if they are in M’s mind, allowing them to experience the creative process from the perspective of an artist, said Ashley Chang DRA ’16, who plays C. Clauson explained that the numerous sheets of paper scattered around the venue will blur the boundary between the stage and the audience.

“[The set] is meant to reflect the messiness and chaos of the creative process,” Clauson said. “The stage is littered in the way that a writer can litter a piece of paper with her thoughts.”

“Crave” was first performed at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1998.

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