In the theater world, an age-old adage characterizes the attitude required of all dedicated artists. When something goes wrong with a production, no matter how difficult it becomes, thespians always say to themselves: “The show must go on.”
But when the Yale Dramatic Association decided last week to postpone its fall mainstage, it became apparent that Yale students, administrators and even theater professionals had forgotten those words.
The Dramat, one of the oldest college organizations of its kind in the country and arguably the most prestigious, produces two major shows, or mainstages, a year, each designed and directed by hired professionals and put up in the large University Theater. The production slated to go up this fall was “Candide,” a musical with a talented cast and a complicated set. But due to a series of miscommunications and miscalculations, no suitable technical director was found to construct the elaborate stage setting in time, the show’s producer was fired, and the performance was moved to the spring, where it will replace the previously planned production.
This major breakdown and severe departure from tradition proved to be the product of incomplete communication between the students running the show and the University-mandated advisor and professional staff hired to supervise it.
The involved parties did not realize the complexity and probable budget of the set until too late, and rather than simplifying the set or agreeing to teach a technical director the necessary skills, the advisor established qualifications for finding a technical director that proved impossible to meet. The professional staff also failed to meet their contractual obligations by threatening to quit if the producer was not fired. Finally, the students involved failed to hold up their end of the bargain, not locating a suitable student to lead construction of the set until far too late. Fundamentally, they did not have a plan, and their leadership proved flawed.
The students on the Dramat board should have pressured the administrators and professionals to continue on schedule and find solutions in whatever way possible. The technical advisor should have been more flexible in his handling of student roles and should have noted the complexity of the set far earlier. The professionals should have remembered they were dealing with students and set their expectations accordingly.
The Yale community will be denied a great production this fall, and the show originally planned for the spring will never take place. An old and prestigious tradition has been broken, and unfortunate precedents have been set in the Dramat’s relationship with the administration.
In the future, the Dramat, advisors, administrators and professionals should do everything in their power to prevent the postponement or cancellation of a show. It hurts the Yale arts community, and it wastes the time of all who put in hours of work and energy into their projects. In the end, they must remember that all shows, even student ones, must go on.