Tamilla Woodard DRA ’02 loves the Yale Cabaret, and this year she’s going to do everything in her power to make sure that you do too.
Woodard is the new artistic director of the venue, a position that puts her in charge of selecting the performances that fill the schedule of the quirky, intimate space. The Cabaret puts on weekly shows directed, acted and often written by Yale students.
“I want the Cabaret to be a regular part of everyone’s itinerary, rather than a special event,” Woodard said.
The program has played that role for many famous Yale graduates in the past, including Frances McDormand DRA ’82, John Turturro DRA ’83, Meryl Streep DRA ’75, Liev Schrieber ’92 and Sigourney Weaver DRA ’74. Weaver even listed the Cabaret as her favorite part of the Yale experience in an interview with the News last spring.
Starting every Thursday night, plays, musicals and all types of performance fill up the stage for the weekend, while audience members sit at tables and enjoy dinner or drinks. The plays are prepared in two weeks or less, and involve many of hours of work by students who largely have full-time jobs outside of school.
Woodard said she has received a large number of proposals for this season, including a lot of new work and many experimental ideas. She said she is excited about the options and about the theater’s outlook for the year.
“We’re encouraging people to dream big because all of our voices are what makes it work,” Woodard said. “It’s going to make the Cabaret a place to be.”
Kourtney Keaton DRA ’02 will serve as one of the managing directors of the program this year, and she said she shares Woodard’s excitement.
“The Cabaret is the heart and soul of the drama school,” Keaton said. “We don’t do it because it’s convenient, we do it because we believe in it. It’s the reason I came to Yale.”
Keaton said she has a lot of faith in Woodard’s ability to draw crowds to the cabaret. Most artistic directors of the program are second-year directing students, but the engaging Woodard is a third-year acting student, which lends her a new perspective.
“She’s an evangelist by nature,” Keaton said. “She believes in what she does and we’re lucky to have her.”
Woodard is no stranger to the Cabaret, having directed and performed in many shows. Her work includes many risky shows, like when she starred as Christ in “Sincerity Forever” last spring, a show about Ku Klux Klan members who meet God and magical talking hairballs. She also directed “Polaroid Stories,” a show which brought Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” into the lives of street kids and drug dealers. She was also seen in offbeat comedies like “Hold On Hortense” and “Wedding Party at the Eiffel Tower.”
The directors feel the Cabaret, which has devised a brand new marketing scheme for the year, has a role in the city as well. It has been involved in community programs, and Keaton says it holds an essential niche in the New Haven theater community.
“It’s the only place in New Haven where you can see brand new theater,” Keaton said. “It’s something different every week.”
Woodard says she has big plans for the year also.
“I want everyone to feel the way I do,” Woodard said. “I want everyone to love the Cabaret the way I love it.”