For the Yale Cabaret’s upcoming production — its most unconventional show of the year — performers are preparing to step into new identities, and even new genders.
The “Yale School of Drag” opens Friday night at the Cab. The show has been staged for the past two years, with tickets already sold out for this year’s show. The production consists of a series of music, theater and dance performances, each of which will focus on broad themes taken from iconic works in musical theater and Broadway classics. During the show, all performers and even the Cab’s wait staff will be dressed in drag clothing. Emily Catherine Zemba DRA ’15, one of the show’s four co-directors, said the show aims to promote tolerance of gender diversity in lively, light-hearted manner.
“I think it’s the celebration of identity in a lot of ways: identity as artists, as human, as people and sort of the explosion of gender identity. It’s really inspiring,” Zemba said.
James Cusati-Moyer DRA ’15, another co-director of the show, said he thinks that the audience experience for this show is unlike that of other shows because it is more similar to a social event than a theater performance. Zemba said the extravagant costumes featured in the show tend to attract large audiences. Cusati-Moyer explained that some performers design and make their own costumes for the show. Zemba noted that in several cases, male performers seeking to wear high heels must purchase them because the shoe collection at the Yale School of Drama does not have shoes that fit them. Ato Blankson-Wood DRA ’15, another co-director, said his favorite aspect of the show is seeing artists try drag performance for the first time.
Kelly Kerwin DRA ’15 said the show is designed to feature 30 performers — more than any other Cab show this season — as well as complex set designs involving machinery, but noted that several elements are subject to change because the ensemble’s first and only dress rehearsal will not take place until Thursday night.
Cusati-Moyer said this year’s performance will take a “bigger, more glitter” approach than in previous years. Kerwin said that because the ensemble does not rehearse as a group until the night before the show opens, she does not know exactly what the performances will look like on stage. She noted that she and the other co-directors do not personally direct each performance. Cusati-Moyer said he thinks that the artistic freedom the show gives to its artists allows performers to take on roles that they would not play in a typical School of Drama production. For example, Kerwin said, a School of Drama student who is training to become a stage manager may be a performer in the “School of Drag.”
“One of my favorite things about the show is witnessing already talented artists stepping out of their comfort zone and stepping into that place of freedom” Cusati-Moyer said.
Zemba said the original idea for the show was conceived by Ethan Heard ’07 DRA ’13, a former artistic director of the Cab. Since Heard introduced the show Yale community to his creation three years ago, the drag show has become an tradition at the Cab, Zemba explained.
Performances of “Yale School of Drag” run through Feb. 13.