In its next show, Yale Cabaret will piece together a history of womanhood using a web of personal tales.
“Shiny Objects” opens tomorrow night at the Cab. Directed by Christopher Geary DRA ’15, the show features eight female characters played by two actresses and consists of a series of stories told to the actresses by women they interviewed over the past several months. One of the actresses, Zenzi Williams DRA ’15, highlighted the parallels between her own experiences and those of the women she spoke to for the show.
“Having explored these interviews, I feel like I am celebrating; each of these women has something that I feel I can relate to,” Williams said. “And I feel like all these parts should be celebrated.”
Maura Hooper DRA ’15, the other actress in the performance, explained that the show was inspired by two Yale School of Drama courses, “Third-Year Speech and Dialects: Interview Project/Voice-Over Workshop” and “Creating Actor-Generated Work.” The class first had students interview strangers and create 10-minute-long monologues in which the students played the role of their interviewees, Hooper said. She noted that two of her particularly memorable subjects were a nun and an elderly British woman who lived under English colonial rule in Africa.
Hooper said she and Williams went on to film over 15 hours of interviews that would eventually constitute the base of the show. They said that because there was not enough time to stage all of their interviews in their entirety, they aimed to catch the essence of each interviewee and create their characters based on that essence. Williams noted that several of the interviewees were not developed into characters because a number of subjects shared similar experiences.
“We have about 15 hours of interviews and we had to cut them.” Hooper said. “Without manufacturing anything, we tried to find what the main thesis about that person is.”
The show is both a celebration of pride and an acknowledgement of shame, Williams said. She and Hooper explained that in their interviews, subjects were asked to name the qualities that made them proud of being a woman as well as those that made them ashamed of their gender. Geary highlighted that the interviewees were all similar in the sense that they all came to terms with their imperfections to some extent.
Williams added that the performance attempts to illustrate the ways in which problems women have faced in the past, such as being held to unreasonable standards of etiquette, occur today as well. But Hooper noted that she thinks many audience members, male and female, will be able to empathize with the show’s message. Geary echoed this sentiment, noting that as a male director, he was able to introduce an additional perspective to the creative process.
“I think women certainly will relate it because they’re related to the idea of seeking perfection and being the ‘good girl,’” Hooper said. “The whole point of it is none of us are perfect and that is why we should talk about it … it’s not a woman thing, it’s an everyone’s thing.”
Performances of “Shiny Objects” run through Saturday.