Yale Drama Coalition prepares for in-person theater with some restrictions
With some capacity limits in place, the Yale theater community is prepared for hybrid casting cycles and smaller crowds.
Courtesy of Eliza MacGilvray
This semester, the Yale Drama Coalition is preparing to transition back to in-person theater after a year of online operation — all while adhering to the university’s COVID-19 guidelines.
The YDC is an umbrella organization that connects students with performance groups at Yale while promoting accessibility, fairness and community building. This fall, YDC members hope to return to in-person performances, even if still limited by safety constraints.
“Everyone is very excited to get back to the way things were. I’ve talked to so many people that are just itching to get into an actual rehearsal room, to touch the soundboard and the lights, to interact with other actors face-to-face without the screen barrier and Zoom lags,” said Beza Tessema ’24, a YDC first-year liaison.
The YDC ensures that Yale’s performing groups follow safety guidelines and receive sufficient support from the administration. According to YDC Vice President Catherine Alam-Nist ’24, the organization’s foremost priority is “the safety of the community.”
Safety regulations include indoor masking, social distancing and capacity limits for indoor spaces. As of now, there can be up to 20 performers on stage and 30 audience members in the same room — all masked.
Tessema noted that despite “a whole bunch of hurdles,” the YDC is hopeful that restrictions will gradually loosen up, so that larger audiences could enjoy the shows.
The YDC also supervises organizations’ casting cycles. A show’s directing team can determine their casting cycle format, and can choose between in-person or Zoom rounds.
According to YDC President Eliza MacGilvray ’23, the group has “a solid setup” for virtual events in case they need to revert to this format. For example, the YDC decided to host their annual season preview — showcasing the season’s shows and audition information — online, since prospective attendees exceeded the 50-person limit.
“Since [the season preview] is a time when the whole theater community comes together, we would love to have it in person,” MacGilvray said. “We even came up with an elaborate set of scenarios where we could split everyone into small groups or use a walkie-talkie. But eventually we realized that we just couldn’t abide by COVID guidelines because of so many people interested.”
Still, community building is central to the YDC’s agenda. This semester, they plan to actively involve both first years and sophomores who did not have a chance to engage with theater in person. On Aug. 31, Tessema and her co-first-year liaison Hank Graham ’24 sent out an email to both classes outlining how to navigate and participate in the world of Yale theater.
According to MacGilvray, the YDC hopes to ensure that students are aware of the theater opportunities and resources available to them. Among these opportunities are the YDC big sib/little sib program and various workshops on topics such as theater safety, writing a CPA grant and transitioning back to in-person operation.
YDC executive board members noted that the previous year’s virtual theater programming sparked student creativity and produced several original works with new formats. Alam-Nist added that the virtual format spurred the YDC to “double down on their core values” and create a more open and inclusive environment.
Still, YDC members expressed excitement for the return to “normal” operations and a revival of the social side of theater.
“The core of the theater is the relationship between the performers and audience, which you just can’t get in a virtual setting,” MacGilvray said. “It is a special feeling of being in a space with people who are as excited about the show as you are and meeting new people who are interested in theater. No one really knows what to expect this year but we’re all hoping for the best.”
The Yale Dramatic Association’s first fall production, “Not About Kyle,” is expected to premiere on Oct. 7.