Daniel Zhao

Last night, the Yale Symphony Orchestra transported a packed Woolsey Hall to a small Indiana town with their Halloween Show production, which was based on the popular Netflix drama “Stranger Things.”

Held in Woolsey Hall, the annual YSO Halloween Show is one of the undergraduate music group’s most anticipated annual performances, with tickets selling out in minutes each year. Held at 11:59 p.m. on the night of Oct. 31, this one-hour silent film is one of the YSO’s most beloved traditions.

“This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to combine music and film in such a creative way,” said YSO cellist Giacomo Glotzer ’22.

When asked about what he thought was the most exciting part of the production, Glotzer said that “the fact that it’s an entirely student-run production, from filming to conducting to performing, makes it feel like an awesome collective effort.”

The evening began with a pre-show concert by Yale’s all-cello rock band Low Strung. Following Low Strung’s lively tunes, each section of the YSO entered the stage in their group costumes, performing short choreographed dance numbers to music such as “The Office” theme song and One Direction’s hit “What Makes You Beautiful.”

The film — which historically casts current YSO members — starred Epongue Ekille ’21, Isaiah Schrader ’21, Alice Tao ’20 and Sonali Durham ’20 as Yale versions of the Netflix special’s main cast, with an Ivy-League-inspired twist. This year’s producers were YSO musicians Allison Chun ’21, Chie Xu ’21 and Ben Tillinger ’21. The director of photography was Julia Weiner ’19.

“I love that the film contains a subtle commentary on the value of a liberal arts education,” said Schrader.

Sahaj Sankaran ’20, who wrote and directed this year’s production, said the show is “very much about the Yale experience.”

The production included several references to Yale and broader Ivy League culture. Sankaran said that he attempted to “confront the tropes and motifs of this world we inhabit” and identify “what the culture does to [students].” But amidst the Ivy League humor, which included references to investment banking internships and jabs at Cornell, there was a resounding positive message of friendship and companionship.

The film also featured cameos of Stephen Colbert, Jodie Foster ’85 and University President Peter Salovey.

Sankaran described the monthslong process as an “interesting challenge.” After being invited to contribute to the show during the summer, Sankaran said he finalized the script in about a month. But since the show is only accompanied by a mere orchestral soundtrack, screenwriting proves a distinct challenge, Sankaran noted.

“The thing with a silent film is that you no longer have dialogue as a crutch,” he said. “You have to use your whole field of vision because if you don’t, your audience isn’t going to know what’s going on.”

Throughout the show, the musicians of the YSO performed a live accompaniment to complement the silent film. The arrangement — which was well-received by audience members — comprised of phrases from notable symphonies, arrangements of pop songs and clips from famous movie soundtracks.

The student-run production features Henry Shapard ’20 and Ian Niederhoffer ’19 as music directors, who have the responsibility of coordinating the live orchestra in time with the scenes of the film.

“Conducting the Halloween Show is unique because the entire production requires the musicians and conductors to give so much in a very condensed period of time,” said Shapard.

Full rehearsals that combined both the movie and score began the Sunday before the show, and were completed within three sessions. Shapard said that the process of “syncing the music exactly with the action on screen is a bit tricky, but the YSO members have done an admirable job of learning the music quickly.”

Though audience members interviewed by the News lauded the music and appreciated the general humor of the show, some did not understand the plot and its relation to “Stranger Things.”

“The music was excellent and the plot made no sense,” said one audience member, Megan Lim ’19.

Another audience member, Chloe Zhou ’20, said she did not think the plot was “as easy to follow as last year.”

“I liked how last year’s [show] was more cinematic, but I thought there were some funny jokes, and I liked seeing people I knew in the show,” Zhou told the News.

Last year, the YSO annual Halloween show was based on the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Allison Park | allison.park@yale.edu