Meiyin Wang ’02 wants to explore friendship, love and sacrifice. Ryan Iverson ’02 wants to make people consider personal loss. Dan Venning ’04 wants to challenge comfort levels. And Scott Peterman ’02, he just wants to have fun.
The directors of this fall’s undergraduate theater season represent varying degrees of intensity, frivolity, tragedy and comedy. Serious straight plays like “The Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “The Crucible” will stand off against lighthearted musicals like “Festival” and “Candide.” With talented casts and experienced directors, the theater options this fall appear promising and will, if nothing else, provide food for thought for the theater-going community.
This fall’s selection is highlighted by two student-written plays, “The Narcissus Collection” by Wang and “Three Men of Golgotha” by Michael Lew ’03. “Narcissus” is an adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” set in a modern day high school. Wang is no novice at playwriting, having written “Postcards for Persephone” in her native Singapore, where she was nominated for Best Original Script in Singapore’s Life! Theater Awards. Jeffrey Little ’02, a senior in the directing concentration of theater studies, will direct the performance. Little surprised audiences last fall with an intense and touching performance of Nichols’ “Passion Play,” one of the most critically acclaimed shows of the year.
“I think it’s so important to do student-written work,” Little said. “I wanted to do something where I could work with a playwright and cast and actually develop a piece of theater.”
Lew, who will be directing and acting in “Golgotha,” has directed four shows at Yale, including Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” and a segment of Artaud’s “Jet of Blood” from a festival last spring. “Golgotha” is a biblical speculative drama told through 11 non-linear interrelated scenes. Lew says that his intimate 5-man show strives to bring new voices to lesser-known biblical characters.
Wang will also be directing “The Kiss of the Spider Woman,” which will feature the stage talents of James DuRuz ’03 and Blake Edwards ’02. DuRuz turned heads last year with leading roles in Sam Shepard’s “True West” and David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and Edwards has performed in many shows at Yale, notably last spring’s successful “Side Man.” Wang’s “Trojan Women,” performed as a Dramat experimental production last spring, was both edgy and intellectual, which sets high expectations of her work with such a powerful script.
Equally unsettling should be the works of Venning and Iverson, who will be directing “Equus” and “A Murder of Crows,” respectively. Both scripts take creative risks and both directors said they are making no efforts to make them more palatable.
“I want this piece to raise questions for the audience, rather than answers,” Iverson said. “Viewers should leave feeling as though they — like the characters in the play — have lost something.”
Venning voiced similar sentiments, but focused on the challenges that the script presents to the actors.
“The staging is also intended to challenge the actors and their comfort levels,” Venning said, pointing out that he has cut the size of the cast by at least 10 actors.
This season will also take a look at the roles of powerful women, with Deborah Kroplick’s ’03 “Fefu and Her Friends,” Sam Lazarus’ ’02 “The Crucible,” and Mollie Goldstein’s ’02 “The Taming of the Shrew.” Kroplick’s show will be performed at 55 Hillhouse Ave., in a mansion that will be used to reflect the intimacy and grandeur of Fefu’s home in the play.
“Crucible” and “Shrew” will be performed back-to-back in the Drama School’s New Theater, as Dramat experimental shows. Lazarus’ experience with feminine strength and weakness in shows like last year’s “Antigone” will likely express themselves in her work with Arthur Miller’s famous text. Both Goldstein and Lazarus plan to focus on the strength of their plays’ characters, with Goldstein transferring the action of the play from the past to the present. Her production will include elements of modernity while preserving the entanglements of love that span all generations.
“True love is messy, complicated, and contorted by insecurity and performance,” Goldstein said. “I want to present a play of people wrestling with these situations — and that is a fun and entertaining two hours of theater.”
But perhaps the most energetic options of the year will be the musicals, “Festival” and “Candide.” Peterman, whose “A Man for all Seasons” last fall was popular among students and faculty alike, will direct “Festival.” Peterman said he intends to seek out the fun aspects of performance for his production.
“The greatest quality a director can ever possess is a free smile and a generous laugh,” Peterman said. “Our whole organization, our entire production is based around bringing a childlike grin to every face in the audience and, if we do our job right, every face on stage as well.”
Joe Ametrano, the professional director of Candide for the Dramat, said he intends to bring Leonard Bernstein’s work to the Yale audience in a format that he thinks they can and will relate to.
“Candide is asking: How could a benevolent God could allow such catastrophic events to take place? How could this be the best of all possible worlds?” Ametrano said. “Given the events of this past week, the material is as up to the minute as when it was written. As always, my objective in directing a piece of theatre is to tell the story in a manner that is both emotionally and visually exciting.”
These shows are not the only ones to be performed this fall, but they represent a few of the styles and highlights you can expect to see on stage this season.