Marisa Peryer

While socially distanced, Madi Cupp-Enyard ’20 is staying connected through art. 

As music director of the all-senior female a cappella group Whim ‘n Rhythm, she leads vocal warmups via Zoom, so the group can continue to sing together. This weekend, she planned an internal group concert, in which members took turns performing their solo parts for one another. She also continues to dance with her group Yaledancers through online classes and is writing her senior thesis on the musical “Chicago” for her Theater Studies major.

Cupp-Enyard started dancing at the age of four and picked up singing in elementary school. In middle school, participating in the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre’s summer youth program ignited her love for musical theater. 

“I would just do as many shows as they put me in,” Cupp-Enyard said. “It was the highlight of my year every year, those three months in the summer, just singing and dancing and acting.”

Cupp-Enyard continued to pursue her artistic passions through high school by singing, acting in plays and musicals, and participating in competitive dance. She said that her desire to pursue both the arts and academics simultaneously led her to Yale. According to Cupp-Enyard, Yale art students’ interdisciplinary knowledge makes them artistically stronger.

Cupp-Enyard is a double major in Theater Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She said her WGSS classes have made her think about issues of representation and inclusion in theater in new ways. This inspired her to pursue intellectual activism in theater.

For her senior project, Cupp-Enyard said she wanted to work with Jacqueline Blaska ’20 –– a fellow Theater Studies and WGSS double major –– on a project that suited their shared interests. They selected the musical “Chicago” as a joint senior project, with Blaska directing and Cupp-Enyard playing Roxie Hart. “Chicago,” originally planned to run April 21–24 in the Whitney Theater, was set to feature a 22-person cast.

According to Cupp-Enyard, her Theater Studies thesis explores the media’s theatricalization of crime and the musical’s sexualization of the black female body, while her WGSS senior essay examines the portrayal of mothers in 90s black sitcoms. She discovered that both of her senior projects discuss the value of the black female body, and whether motherhood is the ultimate cultural source of this value. 

“That’s a hugely fulfilling realization,” Cupp-Enyard said, “to know that these two majors are actually supplementing each other so well, and are really forging toward the same ultimate research goal.”

Blaska said the ethos of collaboration and accessibility has marked the entire “Chicago” project.

At the beginning of the school year, Cupp-Enyard and Blaska held audition workshops for Chicago, in order to encourage students without previous experience in musical theater to audition for the production. According to Cupp-Enyard, auditions at Yale often assume previous knowledge of the process, preventing many underprivileged students from accessing performance opportunities.

“It was such an amazing experience,” Cupp-Enyard said. “We had an amazing turnout for the workshops, and it really showed that it was an area that needed to be filled here.”

Blaska said she is inspired by Cupp-Enyard’s dedication to every project she signs on to. She always shows up in the rehearsal room ready to work, think and push herself, and her professionalism pushes Blaska to elevate herself as a director.

“Madi is without question the most hardworking person I know,” Blaska said.

Throughout her time at Yale, Cupp-Enyard has choreographed for eight musical theater productions, including the 2018 Commencement Musical “Into the Woods” and the Yale Dramatic Association’s 2019 Fall Mainstage “Sweeney Todd.” She also choreographs for Yaledancers.

Allie Bensinger ’20, a fellow member of Yaledancers, said Cupp-Enyard’s choreography is creative and encompasses a wide range of styles. She added that Cupp-Enyard is exceptional in her precision and high level of organization, which attracts many members of the group to her dances every semester.

“They know that when they sign up to work with Madi, they’re working with a professional,” Bensinger said.

Bensinger added that Cupp-Enyard’s theater-derived storytelling abilities set her apart from other dancers, noting that she is able to use dancing to convey the narrative of each piece to the audience.

Before joining Whim ‘n Rhythm, Cupp-Enyard was a member of the a cappella group Something Extra and sound-engineered the group’s 17-track album.

“I’ve never seen somebody devote so much time and energy to one project,” said Bensinger, also a former member of Something Extra. “The outcome was incredible.” 

Cupp-Enyard is also sound-engineering Whim’s album this year. According to Jordan Lampo ’20, a member of Whim, Cupp-Enyard’s leadership helped the group finish recording their album before spring break. Although the group cannot go on their summer world tour as planned, the album will showcase this class year’s musical sound and new arrangements.

Both Lampo and Bensinger said that Cupp-Enyard, both as a group member and leader, is able to create spaces where people feel comfortable. Lampo added that Cupp-Enyard constantly works to improve the spaces she inhabits.

“She’s never entered a space and left it the same way that it was,” Lampo said.

Carrie Zhou | pinyi.zhou@yale.edu