Courtesy of Supriya Weiss

Every Halloween, students rush to purchase tickets for the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s much-anticipated Halloween Show. But this year, there was no frantic buying, reselling of tickets or fights over Woolsey Hall seats. On Saturday at midnight, over 1,000 viewers around the world attended the premiere virtually. 

This year’s show, titled “The Virtual Bachelorette”, adapted the premise of the popular reality TV show for the Yale community. The plot featured a competition in which Yale’s 14 residential colleges vied for bachelorette “Danielle,” played by Epongue Ekille ’21. The show featured classical love songs including Romeo and Juliet themes, but also pop songs by artists like Lizzo and Cardi B. Many scenes reflected the reality of romance during the pandemic, with drones carrying roses and a socially distant marriage proposal.

“We wanted people to feel connected to Yale,” co-producer Supriya Weiss ’24 said. “Feeling like we’re part of the Yale family, we’re making the same jokes — I wanted people to feel like they were coming home.”

Highlights of the show included cameos from Hillary Clinton ’73, Angela Bassett ’80, Peter Salovey and Chris Harrison, who is the host of “The Bachelorette.”

Film director and co-writer Lucy Wilkins ’22, who is also an editor at the News, said in order to secure the cameos, she decided to “aim high and see what happens.” Surprisingly, Chris Harrison agreed to partake in the show after she directly messaged him on instagram. Wilkins reached out to Angela Bassett’s PR team and Hillary Clinton’s assistant, both of whom were receptive to her request.

Tickets for the YSO Halloween show are typically sold out within three to four minutes after their release. The number of interested students usually exceeds Woolsey Hall’s limited seating capacity. But this year, there was no upper limit on the number of attendees as the show was publicly live streamed on YouTube and will remain accessible on the platform.

“Internally within the YSO there’s this great lineage of Halloween shows, producers of Halloween shows and people who pour so much love and energy into the show,” co-producer Aria Harris ’24 said. “We really wanted to be part of that lineage and continue it.”

Weiss said the production team wanted the show to be accessible to all students because it is one of the few traditions Yale students will be able to experience despite pandemic-induced changes this year. She said this was particularly important for first years, who have not experienced a typical Yale semester, and added that she did not want them to miss out on another first year “hallmark.”

The show has received a warm response so far — Yale students used social media to say that the show made them feel connected to campus, and Weiss said alumni sent messages expressing their excitement about being able to watch the Halloween show this year.

But behind the seamless final product lie months of hard work and creativity, from the YSO, the production team and cast members. 

Over the summer, Wilkins and Francis Fedora ’24 co-wrote the original script for the show, but it had to be replaced by a new script in an attempt to comply with Yale’s COVID-19 safety regulations.

Wilkins said she was initially worried about the project due to the pressure that comes with creating the Halloween show. She did not want the movie to be filmed entirely over Zoom. To introduce in-person scenes while adhering to safety regulations, cast members relied on their own creativity and help from roommates while filming.

“We’ve just tried to make the show fun,” Wilkins said. “Yes, it was filmed in a pandemic, and you can tell in the show that there’s an ongoing pandemic, but we’ve tried to make it funny and humorous and positive.”

Wilkins noted that the changes brought by the pandemic to the process allowed her to work more closely with music director Jacob Miller ’22. Normally, the music director chooses musical works to accompany the script over the summer. This year, Miller began the process earlier in order to allow musicians to record their parts separately so he could compile them together.

“My job looked very different this year,” Miller said. “[Wilkins] and I were both kind of editing audio and visuals at the same time and giving input on each other’s ideas.”

Miller added that the production team functioned like a “single body” throughout the process. He said the team wanted to present the Halloween show at “any cost.”

“That feeling within the production team just kind of continued, and up until last night at 6 a.m. we were trying to make it the best show that we could,” Miller said.

YSO was founded in 1965.

Marisol Carty | marisol.carty@yale.edu