At 8 p.m. each night from Oct. 27 to 29, the Saybrook Underbrook will transform into a club — complete with a live DJ — where nine performers will present their individual ideas of utopia.
“Utopia” is a cabaret project conceived by Director Max Himpe ’21. According to Himpe, he wanted to explore the politically relevant theme of a possible utopian society without aggravating the audience.
“A lot of theatre today —rightly so — spreads knowledge that is often paralyzing,” Himpe said. “It’s painful knowledge, but it’s political knowledge that we need to know. But what happens if you make the audience feel good, and entertained and activated politically? And what happens when they leave the room after that?”
Each cast member will perform an individual piece representing their personal idea of utopia. The performances will take place in a standing room where audience members will be encouraged to move and dance, although a seated “off-stage” experience will also be available. According to Himpe, the show intends to make the audience feel joyful and energized.
“Maybe that joy is more activating than paralysis,” Himpe said.
At the start of the rehearsal process, cast members were asked to brainstorm pieces of music they believe represent utopia. Sarah Sotomayor ’21, the show’s musical director, explained that music is core to the production. The show’s musical performances span genres from pop to musical theatre to indie rock.
According to Sotomayor, a key element of the rehearsal process has been to encourage cast members with varying levels of singing experience to express themselves with music.
“Music is a universal language,” Sotomayor said. “Everyone has music within them and it’s a very natural extension of the self.”
The interactive show will be in a club setting due to the joy and escapism of club culture. Dancing, comedy and the DJ’s music are intended to help the audience envision clubs as utopian spaces.
According to Himpe, the show strives to imagine a better world while respecting all different interpretations of utopia. Himpe explained that “utopia” means “no-place,” so it is almost impossible to realize any single vision of utopia, let alone nine. Rather, the show is interested in representing varied ideas of utopia presented by people of different values and backgrounds.
According to Zoe Ervolino ’20, who will perform in the production, the show explores the “complex linkages between individuality and collectivity.”
Jacqueline Blaska ’20, another performer, said that preparing for the show has inspired her to think critically about her own ideas of utopia and how they relate to ideas of home.
Blaska said that she loves the production’s “collaborative ensemble environment.” The cast contributed to creative decisions, and the performance’s personal nature offers the actors extensive freedom. The vulnerability actors feel while making this personal contribution to the project is exciting, Blaska said.
Ervolino said that the production offers “a cathartic space in the context of Yale.”
“Everyone who’s showing up for this show has such a deep passion for the project as a concept, but also for the way the project makes them feel,” Ervolino said. “You know that you’re in the company of people that are mutually benefiting from participating in a space.”
Both Himpe and Ervolino noted the uncertainty associated with producing an original concept for a show. According to Ervolino, no two audience experiences will be alike.
Himpe said that he hopes the performance will prompt audience members to think about their own utopias.
“Even if they don’t think about better worlds as much as I’d like them to, they will just be able to transcend the world outside for an hour,” Himpe said. “And that, I think everyone deserves right now.”
Saybrook College is located at 242 Elm Street.
Carrie Zhou | firstname.lastname@example.org