Free pizza, free Coke and scores of college students milling around just off York Street: this may sound like a typical Friday night Yale party, but the objective of the Yale Repertory Theatre’s Yale Night is quite different from what might be expected.
Tonight at 8 p.m., the Yale Rep premieres its season’s first show, “Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella” in the School of Drama’s University Theatre. In hopes that students might take away a little culture with their caffeine, the Rep is offering free food for undergraduates coming to view the production’s first performance.
According to the production’s co-director/co-adaptor Tracy Young, “Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella” began as an “inquiry into the nature of Western storytelling.” When Bill Rauch, Young’s partner in directing and adapting the script, first conceived of the show, he chose each of its three components as an example of an important era in the theater. Medea illustrates the Greek tradition, Macbeth represents the Elizabethan genre, and Cinderella typifies American musical theater.
Further along in the playwriting process, themes begin to emerge. The production, as it now stands, is a story of ambition. Each of the title characters pursues his or her goal to its end, no matter what the consequences.
As the threads of each story interweave, the audience begins to see other similarities as well: elements of magic and transformation abound, as well as questions concerning basic parent-child relationships and love.
The goal of this production, Young says, is to “point out the similarities in the storylines while creating some very interesting juxtapositions.”
To reach this end, Rauch’s production often places all three plays onstage simultaneously, while dialogues bridge from one story to the next. Characters from each play speak in turn, as if they were talking to each other, and the three plays often combine to highlight “production moments.”
“All characters participate in these production moments — they’re very large in scope. For example, everyone on stage attends the banquet in Macbeth or the ball in Cinderella,” Young explains.
To facilitate this intermingling while simultaneously maintaining some sort of a separate aesthetic for each play, the design team chose to focus on the iconography of each of the three eras. The actresses in Medea wear the traditional Greek masks, while the actors in Macbeth are decked in stereotypical medieval regalia.
Even the set is an amalgamation of symbols from the various productions; from Macbeth it extracts a huge throne, and from Medea and Cinderella it utilizes sweeping staircases and hard, glossy floors.
“The set,” Young says, “like the production, uses elements from all three shows, but really belongs to none.”
As another method of differentiation, the casts for two of the shows, Medea and Macbeth, are composed of actors or actress of only one sex. Medea, which focuses largely on female issues, is made up of an entirely female cast, whereas Macbeth, a much more masculine drama, is played only by male actors. Cinderella, since it often plays up gender stereotypes, is the only show in which casting is gender specific.
This production marks the premiere of a new version of the play, but “Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella” has been in the works for approximately 18 years, since Bill Rauch was an undergraduate at Harvard University. It was first produced at Harvard, and five years ago, another workshop production was mounted at the Cornerstone Theatre in Los Angeles. Over the last few years, Rauch has been further revising and perfecting the script; he has made major revisions within even the past six months.
Several of the cast and crew members from the original production are still involved with the play in its current form. Among those who have been working on the show over the past two decades are Christopher Laim Moore, who plays Lady Macbeth, Sabrina Peck, who choreographed the Yale Rep production, and Rauch himself. James Bundy, the Yale Rep’s artistic director, was an actor in the Harvard production in 1984.