‘Yale Show’ shows Yale a new tradition

Among Yale students, the only university that’s more fun to ridicule than Harvard is, of course, Yale.

“The Yale Show,” a musical comedy that pokes fun at Yale archetypes, opens tonight in the Off Broadway Theater. It marks the first anniversary of a tradition that started last spring when then-seniors David Chernicoff ’07, Eli Clark ’07, Eric March ’07, Justin Noble ’07, Michael Rae-Grant ’07, Jocelyn Ranne ’07 and Claire Siebers ’07 wrote the first “Yale Show,” a project designed to parody everything they loved and hated about the institution they were leaving. Now, a year later, the show is in its second incarnation, with an entirely new script, new cast and lots of new laughs.

When this year’s writing team — comprised of current seniors, many of whom were “tapped” by last year’s graduating writers — sat down in June to start throwing around ideas, their immediate challenge was how to follow last year’s act. The first “Yale Show” parodied familiar Yale institutions, such as Directed Studies, and also student “types,” such as athletes and graduate students. This year’s writers have striven to distinguish their show from last year’s, but in doing so they’ve decided not to focus on specific events of the past year. Instead, they’re again taking the general approach — with the hope that more people will be able to relate to the jokes — and simply finding new Yale clichés to parody.

“Rather than focus specifically on this year’s events, like ‘Yale sluts’ or Aliza Shvarts, this is more about Yale in general, things that everyone will be able to identify with” said Andrew Law ’08, a writer and actor in the show. “And because last year’s show covered a lot of tropes, we definitely did make an effort to parody things that were not parodied last year.”

With six seniors on this year’s writing team, there has been no shortage of ideas. The combined minds of Celeste Ballard ’08, Matt Kozlark ’08, David Litt ’08, Jessica Poter ’08, Felicia Ricci ’08 and Law have created, over the past year, a musical comedy in which four Calhoun intramural players must save Yale from the clutches of the evil “Mr. Bass.” Writing the script, said Law, was by turns exhilarating and frustrating.

“The writing was a really collaborative process, and it was really fun to throw ideas around,” Law said. “Still, you’ve got five cooks in the kitchen.”

Law said he wished there had been more creative input from people in other classes. There might be talented writers among the freshmen, sophomores or juniors, and at the very least, people from those classes would lend a new perspective.

“I think it’s kind of dumb to have only seniors write it,” Law said. “There are so many talented people in so many different classes. It sort of limits what you can do.”

Still, there is one freshman on the creative team. Though he did not help write the script, Ben Wexler ’11 composed half the music. When Andrew Resnick ’08, the show’s original composer, needed help writing the songs — which are mostly in a contemporary musical theater style, with some pop rock and doo-wop thrown in — he called upon Wexler, with whom he had collaborated in a musical-theater composition class. The two songwriters complemented each other nicely.

“We contribute different things to the table,” Wexler said. “Resnick plays piano really, really well, and I have a good ear, so I can hear vocal lines. The two forces together kind of worked well.”

And even if the creative team is mostly seniors, the cast includes people from all class years, and from all different performance backgrounds. While some cast members regularly act in stage plays at Yale, others are involved primarily in improvisational comedy, or even in a cappella.

“Collaborating with all these people whom you may have seen around or seen in other shows was really awesome,” Law said. “We’ve all had this mutual respect for one another and we finally get a chance to work together.”

Putting on such a show has required dedication and persistence. The director, Felicia Ricci ’08, has had experience acting at Yale, but she has never before directed. Over the past weeks, she has spent much of her time in the theater, helping make signs and props when she is not directing the actors.

“It’s hard enough as it is to mount a musical at Yale, and doing an original musical makes it that much more challenging,” Ricci said. “But it’s really collaborative, so I’ve had tons of help, which has been great.”

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