Matthew Shepard, Allen Ginsberg and Lewis Carroll share the stage this weekend in an unsettling blend of piano, dance, singing and soul at the Yale School of Drama.

“Brother: Songs My Mother Never Taught Me” is the brainchild of composer and pianist David Del Tredici and performance artist John Kelly. It is presented by the Yale School of Drama as part of its special events series. The two experimental artists created the piece and are workshopping it at the Drama School, fine tuning Del Tredici’s composition and Kelly’s singing and choreography. With the help of the Drama School’s facilities and dramaturg Alexander Barreto DRA ’03, the collaborators created a concise, lovelorn performance piece that will eventually take the stage at P.S. 122 in New York City.

For some, the performance at Yale marks a fitting beginning to Yale’s Pride Week celebration.

Kelly’s selection of poems and performance deals heavily with homosexuality, pain and love. Through the trio of poems “These Lousy Brothers,” “This Solid Ground” and “Here,” Kelly said he explores a budding gay relationship, from its inception to the death of a lover. His unusual countertenor voice combines with his simple choreography and lyrics to eerily convey the emotions of such a situation. One of the most graphic of his pieces, entitled “Matthew Shepard,” tells the tale of the gay martyr through video, dance and song.

As part of the workshop process, after each performance Del Tredici and Kelly hold discussion sessions so they can both teach the audience and learn from them. They hope to adapt the piece this weekend by taking in audience reaction and adjusting it accordingly.

Del Tredici is a Pulitzer Prize winning composer who dedicates himself to the return of tonality in composition. In “Brother,” he set poems by Kelly, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Monette and Lewis Carroll to the music of his own emphatic and heavy tones. Del Tredici said, upon hearing Kelly’s voice, he knew he found a partner.

“I stood outside his stage door and told him ‘I don’t care who you are, I want to be the next person who works with you,'” Del Tredici said in a discussion after Thursday’s performance.

Kelly’s onstage creations also include video that he created and minimal set pieces. Only a few poignant props find their way onto the stage, such as a fence representing the death place of Matthew Shepard and a small bottle of prescription medicine. Kelly uses these to deepen the emotional perspective that the music, words and song create.


Yale Repertory Theater

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Sunday at 3p.m.