This weekend, Cassandra Hsiao ’21 will watch her three original one-act plays performed together for the first time in a production called “Sonder.”
A committed playwright, Hsiao decided to showcase her work after performing in a similar exhibition of one-act plays last year. She said that she recruited a production team by searching through the Yale College Arts website and “emailing into the void.” As the play enters production weekend, Hsiao is a member of the seven-actor cast and is joined by a 13-person crew comprised of students with varying backgrounds and levels of experience.
Hsiao defined the production’s title as “a made up word that captures the feeling you get when you realize how rich other people’s lives are.” This word was inspired by a middle school peer who told Hsiao that she embodied a kind of “sonder.”
Unlike most collections of one-act plays, “Sonder” will feature the work of three different directors.
Jordan Harris ’20 will direct “Supermarket of Lost,” a play that Hsiao wrote her junior year of high school for a playwriting competition with the theme “lost and found” at the Old Globe Theater in Hollywood. “Supermarket of Lost” centers on an imaginary store for all lost things, with wacky hours and unconventional rules. Hsiao won the original competition as well as two competitions after. Thus far, the play has been performed in Hollywood, San Diego and New York.
“What [‘Supermarket of Lost’] boils down to is losing things, finding this, connecting with people, refinding things that you never thought you had any hope of finding again, and having to leave behind the most precious things that you can never get back,” said Harris.
The second play in the collection, “Fire Hazard,” has only been performed once. Hsiao wrote the script during her senior year of high school and again saw it come to life at the Old Globe Theater. She said that “Fire Hazard” deals with the most serious issues of the three plays, tackling topics such as race and privilege. Hsiao added that she hopes the play will compel audience members to “re-examine themselves and the situation that they’re in in that moment, which is watching a play at Yale.”
The final play, entitled “Winter’s Tale”, tells the story of a seemingly perfect relationship that falls apart after one bad text message. Hsiao will also act in this play, as it deals specifically with the experience of an Asian American woman.
“I hope that beneath all the humor and little jokes, people take away this deeper sense of hope,” said Audrey Huang ’21, who will direct “Winter’s Tale.”
While the plays might seem unrelated, Hsiao said that they all address identity and discovery. At the beginning of the production process, Hsiao asked the actors to describe a time they felt “sonder.” According to Hsiao, responses included such memories as the aftermath of a car crash and an emotionally moving poetry slam.
“Those moments are kind of what I want the audience to feel, that general feeling of stepping out of their shoes and into another person’s shoes,” Hsiao said. “At the end of the day I think that’s what art should do.”
“Sonder” will show in the Hopper Cabaret this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.
Lindsay Daugherty | firstname.lastname@example.org