For the first time since 2007, Kaleidoscope — an original theatrical production featuring Yale students sharing their experiences with diversity — will not be one of the events for incoming freshmen in the first week of fall semester. Instead, admitted students will find stories of diversity in their email inboxes over the summer.
A new program, called Unexpected Connections, was announced in a Feb. 4 email to the student body by Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry. The email asked recipients to submit stories, short videos, images, poetry, spoken word or other pieces that describe relationships and friendships that began outside of their comfort zones. Students who participated in the program said they did not know the official reason for the cancellation of Kaleidoscope, but some suggested that the production caused a strain on both finances and labor.
Gentry could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Intercultural Affairs Council (IAC), which is comprised of students and administrators and aims to facilitate conversations and events that serve to bridge cultural groups, will now select pieces from the pool of submissions to be sent to freshmen over the summer, said IAC member Vanessa Noelte ’16.
Noelte said that like Kaleidoscope, Unexpected Connections looks to eliminate stigma associated with various groups and cultures represented on campus.
“There’s a lot of diversity at Yale, and, for some people, that’s very shocking,” Noelte said. “[With Unexpected Connections], we’re exploring a lot of different stories. People can connect more to this.”
Kaleidoscope, Noelte said, was somewhat insufficient in that it only chose a handful of stories and failed to reach the entire freshman class, since many students chose to skip the event. To resolve this, Noelte said stories from Unexpected Connections will be sent to the incoming class’s emails, allowing students to access them on their own time and perhaps even reach out to the students involved in the stories.
Individuals involved in the most recent Kaleidoscope production were generally unbothered by its discontinuation.
Joan Lipkin, director of Kaleidoscope and artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, said she was grateful for being able to partake in Yale’s commitment to diversity. She commended the University for creating an original piece of theater with an entirely new group of upperclassmen every year.
“I have enjoyed working with students, faculty and administration at Yale over the past three years and hope that there will opportunities for me to do so again,” Lipkin said in an email to the News. “I felt very supported in my work as a guest artist and believe that we generated some beautiful and productive pieces that had an impact.”
Although Lipkin said she was not told the reasoning behind Kaleidoscope’s cancellation, she acknowledged that the production is quite “labor-intensive regarding issues of housing, rehearsal and performance space, scheduling, rehearsals and devising of the material.” She added that even with a successful program like Kaleidoscope, the University may have wanted to explore other options.
Michael Zhao ’15, who was a cast member last year, said he was shocked when Michael Perkins, the production’s assistant director, told the most recent class of cast members that Kaleidoscope would not return in the fall.
Still, he conceded that the program had its drawbacks and could be improved.
“I feel like Kaleidoscope definitely relies on the strength of the cast, and the strength of the cast relies on the people applying to be in it,” Zhao said.
Zhao said many parts of the Yale community were not represented in last year’s show, despite the theme of diversity. That, he said, combined with a general lack of interest in the program among freshmen, indicates that the University should look into revamping the performance or coming up with something new altogether.
In contrast, Christina Wang ’15 — also a member of last year’s cast — said it is a shame that the program has been cancelled. Unlike Noelte, Wang said she believes that having a performance about diversity is much more effective than sending emails with stories that incoming freshmen could choose not to open or read. By interacting directly with the freshmen, she said, upperclassmen are able to better convey the nuances of Yale’s people and communities.
The IAC currently has 19 members, including students and administrators.