Starting this week, three second-year playwrights in the Yale Drama School will present their productions at the Langston Hughes Festival of New Films, which will exhibit the culmination of their year’s work.
The plays include “In His Hands; or the gay christian play,” “Tilted” and “How Black Girls Get Over Fuckbois, Vol 1.” The first two shows will premiere Dec. 5, while the third will premiere Dec. 6.
The festival is the first and only opportunity for second-year playwriting students to show their work. The actors will consist of second- and third-year acting students at the Drama School.
The students must work with minimal resources. The plays will have no sets, requiring the playwrights to work solely with the stage, and their budgets were limited to $500. No design teams will be provided other than sound designers, so the artists must work together to make lighting decisions.
Angie Bridgette Jones DRA ’21, who wrote “How Black Girls Get Over Fuckbois, Vol 1,” said the lack of supporting crews felt at times like a giant hazing ritual. The playwrights, directors and actors have only three weeks of rehearsal time before plays are put on stage.
The artists believe the lack of resources present a mixed bag. The rudimentary nature of the set, costumes and design force the production team to push their creative boundaries, and compels actors to get to the core of the narrative.
The minimalism of the set also offers a unique experience for the audience.
“Having no set is actually really exciting to me,” Benjamin Benne DRA ’21, who wrote “In His Hands,” said. “I think part of the power of theater is that it invites the audience into the imaginations of the artists and the actors.”
Benne’s play, directed by Maeli Goren DRA ’21, explores the ways in which sexuality and spirituality intertwine. The play functions as a romantic comedy between two “gay-mers,” Daniel and Christian, who meet as coworkers in the tech sector. Through the two main characters, the play asks probing but necessary questions about the relationship between faith and queerness.
Benne was inspired by questions he faced in his own life and his struggle to find a religious community with beliefs that aligned with his own. In his play, Benne hopes to challenge the audience’s assumptions about sexuality and its place within religion.
“‘In His Hands’ depicts sexuality and romance in all its honesty, messiness, awkwardness, fun and beauty,” Goren said.
The festival’s second production is “Tilted,” written by Gloria Majule DRA ’21 and directed by Alex Keegan DRA ’21. The show follows four distinctive characters — a tour guide, a man in search of his heritage and two white missionaries — who journey to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, haunted by the ghost of colonialism.
The play examines the implications of tourist culture in both Tanzania and the broader African continent. The production speaks to the importance of taking a closer look at cross-cultural dialogue and looking past surface assumptions.
Majule wrote the beginnings of the play for a class assignment, which required her to write something that challenged her. Going out of her comfort zone, Majule wrote a play containing no black females. However, she didn’t truly flesh out her piece until this summer, when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro herself and had the opportunity to speak to local tour guides.
“Tilted” incorporates Tanzanian music and language, which Keegan described as critical to understanding the complexity of the culture. Majule also wrote one-fourth of the play in Kiswahili to break the traditional Western narrative of Africa.
According to Keegan, the play is “asking to forge dialogue across borders, especially among people of the same race from different countries.”
The final play of the festival premiers this Saturday. Written by Jones and directed by Christopher Betts DRA ’21, “How Black Girls Get Over Fuckbois, Vol. 1” explores a woman’s struggle with self-worth following a broken relationship with a contemptible man. On a deeper level, the play takes a look at the depths of black female friendship and the power of love that black women have for each other.
Originally a “gift play” written for a friend as a class assignment, the production was inspired by the dynamics of black female friendships.
“At its heart, it’s a quirky love letter to my friends that have always loved and supported me,” Jones said.
The show is a comedic piece that explores friendship, healing and self-discovery. Through her characters, Jones said she wants the audience to see black women as heroes in their own lives rather than victims.
All three productions will be held in the Iseman Theater on 1156 Chapel Street.
Rebecca Huang | firstname.lastname@example.org