Yale Drama Coalition uses outdoor venue to tell the story of finding identity in the marginalized place
Navigating Yale’s COVID restrictions, YDC performs outdoors maskless to fully convey the depth of emotions in the play “Shining City”
Courtesy of Anisë Murseli
From Oct. 14 through Oct. 16, Yale Drama Coalition is staging the play “Shining City” by Irish playwright Conor McPherson.
The play will be performed in Branford’s Calliope Courtyard at 8 p.m., and will be YDC’s sixth in-person performance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In consideration of University public health regulations, the audience is limited to 46 asymptomatic, fully-vaccinated Yale ID-holders. The story of the play revolves around a counselor who is coping with his queer identity in a rapidly changing present-day Dublin, Ireland. The play touches upon legacies of queer marginalization in the historically Catholic country, despite the Irish government legalizing gay marriage in 2015.
“Yale is sort of similar to Ireland,” said Madison Garfinkle ’23, director of the production team. “In theory, everyone is accepted, but in practice, [being queer on campus] is still hard. Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day, but here at Yale … there are people still in the closet. For me, it took halfway through sophomore year to come out.”
The play covers various issues such as alcoholism, domestic violence and death, but is balanced by its lighthearted moments.
“I think this is a beauty of life — you can’t always cry or laugh,” cast member Emma McAteer ’22 said. “Everyone [at Yale] is in a difficult time now … but it’ll be fine, that’s life, you can get through it.”
YDC has put on three indoor plays this fall with masked performers. However, in order for the audience to experience the play in full, the production team decided to perform outdoors without masks.
“[The play] includes emotional complexity that largely comes through the actors, so facial expressions matter,” producer Kara O’Rourke ’23 said. “The show really wouldn’t work with a mask.”
Since this is the first time the “Shining City” team is conducting an outdoor performance, YDC came up with a unique way to arrange the stage. The stone pavement in the Calliope Courtyard will be used as the stage and the audience will sit on the grass beside the pavement. The archway that connects the Calliope Courtyard with the main courtyard will be blocked off for the performance. To adhere to Yale’s COVID-19 restrictions, the performers will stay at a distance from the audience.
The play’s participants noted some drawbacks to the venue. Without most of the equipment found in an indoor theater, the production team spent multiple weeks discussing the set design. They had to figure out how to install curtains, lighting and sound systems outside. After rehearsals, the members were also required to dismantle the entire set every night.
The play takes place right next to Branford College. As students chat outside, play music and try to study, “there is no privacy of our own,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke added that there is a “hypocrisy” about the University’s COVID-19 restrictions. She found it frustrating that her team could not put two maskless people inside while students could go to dining halls and talk to strangers without masks.
In response to concerns about discrepancies in COVID-19 restrictions across different student groups, Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd previously told the News that “the safety of the Yale community and the surrounding New Haven community are always the first consideration.”
However, COVID-19 restrictions also had a positive impact on the play. O’Rourke said that Branford College looks similar to old, “aesthetic” castles in Ireland, so the audience can feel more immersed in the play’s settings. Garfinkle added that at night, the glowing windows of students’ rooms around the stage can create an intimate feeling among the audience.
Despite difficulties in organizing the play, McAteer said she is thrilled to perform in person.
“The show has not gone as we wanted to, but we are thankful to have the in-person performance,” she said.
YDC is an umbrella organization for undergraduate theater founded to foster a union of student voices impassioned by theater.