The Yale Cabaret’s new season will aim to stage Yale School of Drama students’ most ambitious theatrical ideas.
The Cabaret’s season opens this Thursday with the first of 18 shows — a student-written play titled “Look Up, Speak Nicely, and Don’t Twiddle Your Fingers All The Time,” by Emily Zemba DRA ’15. After taking their positions as the Cabaret’s new artistic directors last Spring, Hugh Farrell DRA ’15, Tyler Kieffer DRA ’15 and Will Rucker DRA ’15 developed a vision for the 2014-’15 season that revolves around the phrase ‘Make happen the make-believe,’ a slogan that appears on Cabaret posters around campus. Farrell said he and his team hope to stage plays that are open to interpretation and changes throughout the production process, noting that several plays were not even fully written when the team chose to include them in the upcoming season.
“I never want to see a proposal where the producers already know what kind of show they will have at the end of the process,” Farrell said. “We want to be surprised.”
Rucker said that the phrase ‘Make happen the make-believe’ reflects the Cabaret directors’ challenge to the YSD community to propose productions that require complex stage designs. He described “Look Up” as an encounter between Alice in Wonderland and the reality TV series “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Rucker added that second show of the season — titled “Don’t Be Too Surprised” — will feature talking corpses in addition to other supernatural elements.
Farrell, Kieffer and Rucker said that one of their main goals for the Cabaret is to provide opportunities for YSD students to take on roles outside of their academic disciplines. Kieffer explained that none of the cast members in “Don’t Be Too Surprised” are students in the YSD’s acting department. Molly Hennighausen DRA ’15, the Cabaret’s managing director, added that the director for “Look Up,” Ato Blankson-Wood DRA ’15, has never directed a production before.
Beyond their artistic vision, the Cabaret’s leaders said they are looking to significantly reform the Cabaret’s business model. Hennighausen explained that recent budget cuts across the University have led to a $40,000 decrease in the amount of funding Yale provides to the Cabaret, noting that the organization is now completely self-funded. Kieffer said that most of the funding from the University has traditionally been used to pay student staff members who work as waiters and ushers among other positions, adding that these student staffers will see a decrease in their work-study hours. In addition to overhauling the Cabaret’s kitchen services, Hennighausen said she also aims to compensate for the budget cuts by partnering with local businesses such as Allegra, a design, printing and mailing service. She noted that such partnerships are part of an effort to foster long-term relationships between the Cabaret and the local community.
“The Cabaret doesn’t belong to us,” Hennighausen said. “It belongs to New Haven, to the community, to the people who have been coming for 30 years.”
Over the summer, the Cabaret building underwent renovations in preparation for the upcoming season. A large speaker system has been installed in the lobby area, where the lighting system can emit light in a range of different colors. Farrell said that the team wanted an interior design that is easily manipulated, as they plan to change it every week to fit the themes in the featured show.
Performances of “Look Up, Speak Nicely, and Don’t Twiddle Your Fingers All The Time” will run through Sept. 20.