Sean Pergola, Contributing Photographer

Saturday saw the premier of Yale’s penultimate FroShowCase production in the form of a reading of “Among the Roses,” a student-written drama exploring love, loss and family ties set during the 1950s Colombian conflict known as La Violencia. 

The FroShowCase is the Dramat’s first-year production, entirely produced and performed by first-year students at Yale. It replaces previous years’ FroShow in the form of a collection of four smaller virtual productions. “Among the Roses” was written by first year student Sebastian Duque ’24. The play draws heavily from its historical backdrop, and is largely the product of anecdotes passed down through generations.

“Over winter break, I went to go visit my grandma in Columbia and we spent a lot of time together, and she told me a lot of stories from her [youth] and they were just really interesting to me,” Duque said. “I started using my time to write some short stories about the things that she had told me, obviously with a new depth of drama to them … When I saw the opportunity of writing a play for the FroShowCase, I was like, maybe I could turn these little short stories that I’ve written into something bigger.”

The poster for the reading. (Graphic: Courtesy of Marissa Blum)

Duque applied for the FroShowCase as a playwright. After providing the Dramat with writing samples and his ideas about the play, he was offered the opportunity to write a piece from scratch and introduced to director Abbie Thomas ’24.  

Thomas had not met Duque or heard about his play before she was assigned to work with him. But Thomas was thrilled to work with Duque.

“A lot of the show focuses on family and familial relationship, which is something I’ve been thinking a lot [about], at least like during the pandemic,” Thomas commented. “And so it’s been really fun to look at it through that lens specifically … getting to use [Duque’s] play, which already deals with those themes of closeness and family and like love and forgiveness has really lent itself to exactly what I was hoping to achieve with the show anyways.”

Duque and Thomas expressed mutual admiration for each other’s work. Since both of them were present for all rehearsals, they often worked together while providing their own input. Thomas appreciated Duque’s ability to clarify the meaning of specific moments in the script, while Duque praised Thomas for her intuitive understanding of the scenes and her ability to coach actors accordingly.

“I think we make a good team,” Thomas said in a joint call with Duque and the News. 

Along with Duque, “Among the Roses” featured many other production team debuts. Thomas is a first-time director, and producer Beza Tessema ’24 and stage manager Joseph Bennett ’24 are also newcomers to their roles.

Bennett noted that he has had a long-standing desire to stage manage a show, and that the online setting of the FroShowCase allowed him to “ease into” his role, providing him with valuable experience without requiring as much expertise. Similarly, Tessema said the online setting lowered the barrier for entry for first-timers. She added that the play’s format as a “workshop piece” rather than a large-scale production made the production process less intimidating.

Two of the actors, Jesse Roy ’24 and Karen Wang ’24, made their acting debuts in “Among the Roses.” Tessema also mentioned that even though the cast was composed of actors with varying levels of experience, all actors “definitely impressed” her.

“The play is coming out really good,” Tessema said. “I’m really very impressed by the work that everyone has put into this production and I’m honestly excited for everyone to see it.”

David Foster ’24, an audience member, shared Tessema’s enthusiasm. He remarked that the reading format, where stage directions were read by a narrator instead of performed, lent itself well to a virtual environment. He also said the story was “very powerful,” and incorporated experiences that are often overlooked in plays.

“I think the fact that it’s student written is really wonderful,” Foster told the News. “I think it’s particularly impressive that this was first-years … I really look forward to seeing more plays over the next [three] years with these actors and directors and writers.”

The final reading of “Among the Roses” is on April 30 at 7 p.m.

Sean Pergola |