This story has been updated to reflect the version published in print on Aug. 22, 2014.
Though their members have been scattered around the world throughout this summer, the casts and creative teams of three Yale undergraduate productions reunited in downtown Manhattan to prepare for the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.
The festival, which opened August 8, features performances of shows written by Yale Undergraduates: “Dust Can’t Kill Me,” “Fortuna Fantasia” and “We’re Very Proud and We Love You So Much.” Four ensemble members interviewed mentioned past Yale productions at Fringe, such as “Independents” by Marina Keegan ’12, as a reason for applying to the festival themselves, but noted that they think there is an unusually high number of Yale shows at this year’s festival.
“It’s a real high season for Yale music, poetry and art in general,” said Max Ritvo ’13, who will perform “We’re Very Proud and We Love You So Much,” with his undergraduate sketch comedy group, His Majesty, The Baby. “We feed really intensely off of each others work,” he said.
For the vast majority of Yalies at this year’s festival, Fringe was an entirely new environment. Jesse Schreck ’15, who wrote “Fortuna Fantasia,” said his team’s inexperience with the festival led to unexpected challenges, including having to fireproof their equipment at 4 o’clock in the morning on the day that it was due for an inspection. Schreck noted that while members of the ensemble have always wanted to stage a show at Fringe, they never made formal plans to apply for the festival until after “Fortuna” premiered at Yale.
“Fortuna” and “We’re Very Proud” premiered at Yale last December and “Dust” was staged this February. Since their initial performances, the ensembles have revised their shows’ scripts in order to finetune their storylines. Schreck said “Fortuna” is now 40 minutes shorter than when it was first performed, adding that he spent a great of time during the summer removing parts of the script that he felt were extraneous.
Abigail Carney ’15, who wrote the book for the musical “Dust Can’t Kill Me,” said she and her team shortened their original script by at least 10 pages. Elliah Heifetz ’15, who wrote the music and lyrics for “Dust Can’t Kill Me,” added that the Fringe performance of “Dust” also features a new song.
In addition to revising the shows’ scripts, creative team members of the featured productions highlighted the changes they have had to make to the shows’ stage designs due to the festival’s logistical challenges. Alyssa Miller ’16, who plays Lily in “Dust Can’t Kill Me,” explained that production teams have only 15 minutes before and after the performance to assemble and disassemble their set, which includes all stage props and lighting configurations.
Shon Arieh-Lerer ’14, a member of His Majesty, the Baby, said he and his troupe have removed several props from their show — including a taxidermied stork — in order to make the stage set-up process easier. David Shatan-Pardo ’15, the set designer of “Dust Can’t Kill Me,” added that while he hoped to create a hanging prop that would serve as a backdrop for the show, the time and space restrictions in the set-up process do not allow for any large hanging objects in the performance.
While the Creative and Performing Arts Awards that the University uses to fund original theater productions do not exceed $1,700 in value, the costs of staging productions outside of Yale led all three featured productions to raise additional funds to support their upcoming performances. “Dust” has raised $7,335 since May, while “Fortuna” and “We’re Very Proud” have raised $5,211 and $3,974, respectively, since June. Arieh-Lerer explained that many pieces of equipment that would be free to use at Yale, such as projectors and projection screens, are not available to the ensembles who are staging shows at Fringe and must be paid for separately.
“For people putting productions in college theaters, they should take advantage of Yale’s resources as much as possible,” Arieh-Lerer said. “Because once you leave Yale, things are really expensive.”
The festival hosts more than 1,200 performances of 200 different shows and will close on August 24.