This weekend, the Yale Cabaret’s Company of Cab 53 will present “Untitled Bathtub Theatre Project,” a live auditory performance that audiences can experience from their own private bathtubs. Performances will run from Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 at 8 p.m.
The show is a 45-minute “comforting, rejuvenating, and exfoliating” experience. The performance, proposed and co-directed by Jimmy Stubbs DRA ’22, seeks to reinvent the connection between the audience and performers. Stubbs co-directed the show with Maeli Goren DRA ’21.
“This piece was devised as a direct response to the present moment,” Stubbs said. “Pain, frustration, confusion and helplessness are becoming more and more common in members of our community, and it became clear that we were all in need of some kind of joy, healing or care.”
According to Stubbs, his initial proposal was a “bit of a joke.” However, it has since surpassed his imagination, with music, poetry and storytelling. He hopes the performance will serve as a “restorative force” for attendees.
Stubbs explained that “Untitled Bathtub Theatre Project” is an audio-only event. He said that it is different from other productions since cast members will be performing live from their bathtubs, inviting audience members to do the same.
Stubbs noted that the “haptic sensation” of interacting with water comprises a large part of the audience’s sensory experience. The listener can choose to submerge their entire body in water, take a footbath or simply sit with a glass of water nearby.
Nicole Lang DRA ’22, a co-artistic director at the Cabaret, described the project as revitalizing.
“It’s supposed to lead you through the process of taking a bath. What we want the audience to get out of it is that feeling of letting go, being able to be with yourself in your own personal space,” Lang said.
Lang added that along with songs, the performance includes sound effects created by performers’ movements in water. She said this creates a connection between performers and listeners, since “the sound of water” is a shared experience.
Yet audience members are not required to participate from bathtubs. Stubbs said listeners can join from anywhere, as long as they feel comfortable.
“The privacy and acoustics of bathrooms can be pretty magical,” he said, “but [anywhere] you can be alone, freely engage with your body and easily access your imagination is great.”
Cameron Waitkun DRA ’24, the technical supervisor for the show, noted that the project has a “layered” technical system. Performers will use an app called CleanFeed. The sounds they create will be transferred, via Waitkun’s computer, to the Yale Cabaret website. At the same time, stage manager Edmond O’Neal DRA ’22 will coordinate a team of performers and sound designers on an off-broadcast Zoom call.
Waitkun is also responsible for the safety of the show. Since the production involves technology and the submersion of people in water, safety advisors at the Yale School of Drama created strict rules for performers’ conduct in rehearsals and performances.
“Rehearsing this piece during the pandemic has been bizarre, but also bizarrely rewarding,” Stubbs said. “We learned a lot as we went about maintaining open communication and finding new ways to build up trust within the virtual space. Time functions differently now and the adjustments have been revelatory.”
Still, Waitkun said that the role of technology in theater has not drastically changed during the pandemic. Even though the Cabaret is not working with traditional theater mediums, the problem-solving skill set required for technical theater is the same.
Despite technical considerations, a human element comes into play when trying to transmit the experience in real time. “I think [live broadcasting] leads to a really genuine and emotional theatrical experience,” Lang said.
But “Untitled Bathtub Theatre Project” is not trying to be “theater during a pandemic.” The company hopes to take advantage of the current climate to depict connections in the show as “clear, personal and intentional.”
Stubbs told the News that in his experience attending virtual theater productions, he has struggled to fully engage with the works the way he did pre-pandemic.
“As artists continue to experiment with remote formats, I think we all must relearn how to experience live performance,” Stubbs said. “I am so excited to share this sensitive, beautiful, joyful peace with the world. It’s become a sort of a theatrical balm for many, myself included. I hope it has a similar impact on our audiences.”
Tickets for the show can be purchased on the Yale Cabaret website.
Maria Antonia Sendas | firstname.lastname@example.org