Courtesy of Emily Duncan Wilson

The Yale School of Drama production season will resume its 2018–19 season with Alice Childress’ “Trouble in Mind,” which opens on Feb. 2, 2019. The play, originally produced in 1955, will be Aneesha Kudtarkar’s DRA ’19 MFA thesis production in directing.

Set in 1957, “Trouble in Mind” tells the story of the production process for a play about race. “Trouble in Mind” opens at the fictional play’s first rehearsal and follows the characters as they get to know the script, which is written and directed by white men. The play-within-a-play’s director prides himself on supporting a progressive message. As the cast members work toward the production’s premiere, however, they are forced to face the contradictions embedded in their work.

“While we can definitely point to a lot of ways that the industry has shifted since 1957, I think there is still a tendency in the theater to congratulate ourselves for being progressive while enacting some of the social constraints we criticize,” Kudtarkar said.

The relevance of “Trouble in Mind” today is heightened by the relatability of the dialogue and interactions. According to Kudtarkar, the play perfectly captures the feeling of tension in a high-strung rehearsal room. This, she explained, creates humor and “laughter of recognition.”

Kudtarkar chose “Trouble in Mind” for her thesis production partly because of the play’s historical significance. After a successful off-Broadway run beginning in 1955, Childress was approached by Broadway producers on the condition that she change the ending to be more optimistic. She attempted the requested alteration but was unable to do so without sacrificing her message. “Trouble in Mind” was never produced on Broadway but would have been the first Broadway play written by an African-American woman.

Kudtarkar said that the School of Drama is a perfect venue for this play. The cast and crew members, she explained, are all at the beginnings of their careers and are thus thinking about the world of theater discussed in “Trouble in Mind.”

“It’s a play about doing plays put up at a school where people are learning how to put on plays,” she said.

The rehearsal process began in mid-December. After a short break for the holidays — which Kudtarkar said allowed the cast to “spend time with the script” — the students returned to their five-to-seven hours per day, 6 days per week schedule.

This production marks the introduction of a new program at the School of Drama in which projections designers can showcase their own work in conjunction with a show when the play does not explicitly call for projection design. For “Trouble in Mind,” Erin Sullivan DRA ’20 will produce an interactive installation in the downstairs lobby of the University Theatre.

“Trouble in Mind” will run until Feb. 8.

Lindsay Daugherty | lindsay.daugherty@yale.edu