Daniel Zhao

As spring semester begins, seniors in the Theater Studies program have begun to stage their final projects, with four shows running in total from early February until April.

The first show in the season is Lola Hourihane’s ’20 project in directing “The Hungry Woman, A Mexican Medea.” The show, by Cherríe Moraga, opened Jan. 19 and will continue until Feb. 8.

The play follows a woman named Medea who lives in the border area of Aztlán — a chunk of U.S. territory that has been converted into a homeland for Chicanx people. She lives with her girlfriend and son on the outskirts of this territory, after being exiled during Aztlán’s anti-gay, patriarchal revolution. At the time of the narrative, Medea’s husband Jasón, a prominent figure in the government, seeks to divorce Medea and take his son back to Aztlán. The play’s cast is primarily composed of Chicanx, Latinx, Native American and gender non-conforming actors, and the audition process encourages those without acting experience to try out.

Yesim Celebi’s ’20 senior project is “The Hug of the Tiger,” by Kemal Hamamcioglu. It will show from Sunday, Feb. 9 to Saturday, Feb. 29. Celebi, who is from Turkey and translated the play from Turkish, said she wanted to choose a play outside of the Anglo-Saxon canon that is typically featured so prominently at Yale.

Celebi is both the executive producer of the work and the lead actor — one of only two cast members. Celebi plays a nameless woman and is the only character to grace the stage. She noted that, as the sole embodied character, it is difficult to “fill up the space and time” for the audience. The other actor is a disembodied male voice. This voice is not pre-recorded, but instead is spoken live from the wings. The voice represents an automated machine that helps the woman ease her loneliness. Together, they make plans for her night in the “happiness room” with her “ideal man.”

Celebi said Hamamcioglu’s nuanced script helps her character command the audience, despite the show’s skeleton cast. To prevent the stage from feeling like an lonely expanse, Celebi and her production crew have worked to create a closed environment through lighting choices and a V-shaped stage.

Though Celebi chose this play to expose Yale to a play outside the Anglo-Saxon canon, she said the play’s reflections on loneliness, modern relationships and technology’s impact on modern love are all very relevant at the university.

Jacqueline Blaska ’20 will direct a production of the musical “Chicago,” which will be staged from Sunday, Apr. 5 through Saturday, Apr. 25. Blaska and Madi Cupp-Enyard ’20 — the lead actor — chose a joint senior project because they were both fascinated by the performance’s relationship to sexuality and gender. Both women are also Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies majors.

Blaska said “Chicago,” more so than other musicals, lays bare how characters can achieve their goals via sexual and gendered strategies. This relationship between performer and audience fascinates her.

“It’s so canonical,” said Blaska, “But once you begin to look beyond the surface, you find all this crazy stuff.”

When choosing a work for her senior project, Blaska was also intrigued by the fact that though nearly all of the musical’s characters are incarcerated women, the musical is publicly revered for its “jazzy, sexy, nightclub vibe” and not its commentary on the justice system. Blaska and Cupp-Enyard have used the production as a tool to interrogate modern mass incarceration and the “surveillance of the black body.”

According to Blaska, both female leads are black women, as well as many of the other members of the 21-person cast. Blaska says she and Cupp-Enyard went out of their way to select actors from all corners of Yale, all who have very diverse experiences. Some cast members have years of acting experience, while others have none.

The fourth and final senior project of the semester is “En La Casa Azul,” written by Camille Arboles ’20. It will show Sunday, Mar. 1 through Saturday, Apr. 4. The play is Arboles’ senior project in acting and is a devised theatrical piece based on the life of Frida Kahlo.

Other characters include Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, played by Alejandro Andres Campillo ’21, and Leon Trotsky, played by Danny Germino-Watnick ’21. Cassandra Hsiao ’21, one of the show’s producers, said the performance will incorporate projections, an aerial hoop and pole dancing to express Frida’s desire to fly despite her severely injured body.

“This production will bring audiences closer to the daily life — daily pains and joys — of Frida,” Hsiao said.

Theater Studies senior projects are held at the Whitney Theater, located in the Whitney Humanities Center on 53 Wall Street.

Annie Radillo | annie.radillo@yale.edu