Ann Zhang

This weekend, the Yale University Dramatic Association will present “Not About Kyle” — its first in-person theater production this fall –– as a part of its 2021 Fall Ex. 

According to playwright Ann Zhang ’24, the play addresses the “coming-of-age” sentiments of confusion, guilt and acceptance, specifically tackling the experience of “being in one’s own head” and using fiction to forge one’s identity. The performances will run on Oct. 7 at 8 p.m., Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. and two shows on Oct. 9 at 2 p.m and 8 p.m. at the Yale Repertory Theatre.

“[‘Not About Kyle’] is a play that tells what it’s like to be in your own head and feel isolated even around other people,” Zhang said. “It is also about the baseline realization that people don’t merely exist in one’s head. They are fully fleshed out, nuanced and simply unable to fit into a small stereotypical box. All of that feels especially relevant now with the pandemic.”

The show — which was also co-produced by Zhang — traces the story of Luce, a high schooler who is writing a book about a boy named Kyle. But as the title suggests, the play is not about Kyle. Rather, it is an exploration of Luce’s journey as she grapples with the common teenage issues related to friendship, romance, isolation, self-expression and self-discovery.

Zhang started writing the play during her senior year of high school and partly based the main character Luce’s “headspace” on her own experience. After finishing the script last year, Zhang assembled the production team and submitted her proposal to the Dramat in May. As soon as the play was approved to be a part of the Dramat’s 2021 Fall Ex, the team met regularly over Zoom to organize logistics during the summer.

Upon returning to campus in early September, the production team held auditions and prepared for the premiere in less than a month.

“It’s been a very fast production and we’ve been rehearsing on a very tight schedule,” said the play’s director Samantha Fisher ’24. “But we’ve all been so excited for a revival of the in-person theater and got a lot done thanks to everyone’s enthusiasm.”

According to Soojin Park ’25, who plays Luce, the rehearsing times differed for the cast members based on their roles. As the main character, Park rehearsed four times a week for four hours a day — all while abiding by University health guidelines. The cast could not practice in the same space for over an hour and had to take “COVID-breaks” in between to air out the room. However, Park noted that these restrictions were not “too bothersome,” as they allowed more time for the team members to “connect” and get to know each other.

Other safety guidelines included mandatory masking for both the audience and performers on stage, despite the small cast of nine people.

“I was joking with the team that it’s a great year for people who can only act with the upper half of their face, which is not the case for our actors,” Zhang said. “So, I am a little sad that the audience will not be able to fully appreciate their wonderful work.”

Still, the team shared a sentiment of excitement and optimism. Fisher said that she felt “extremely grateful” to have a chance to “personally” present the play to the audience and to “get its emotional message across.” Park also noted that the cast managed to “form connections” with each other and “maintain energy on stage,” regardless of some inconveniences related to health restrictions.

Park said that as a result of this collaborative work environment and the close-knit relations among members, the team produced a “very human and honest” coming-of-age play in less than a month.

“It is a very personal play to a lot of people, as it focuses on discovering your sexuality and forging your own identity and touches upon a lot of very specific experiences that people have,” Fisher said. “But at the same time, it also feels really universal: Even if you don’t have these character-specific problems, we all struggle with growing up and figuring out who we are. So, what I’d love for the audience to take away from it is the feeling that we’re all connected and we’re all going through it together.”
“Not About Kyle” will run for about an hour without intermission. Tickets must be reserved online via the Dramat’s website.