Yale Cabaret

The Yale Cabaret returns with its first in-person production of the semester, “The Hedgehog’s Dilemma” written by Harry Davis and directed by Cooper Bruhns DRA ’24 and Lucas Iverson DRA ’24. 

The play explores the themes of queerness and struggles in human relationships through interactions between two queer characters, both of whom are performed by the directors. The show is the Yale Cabaret’s first production of the spring season and will be open only to fully-vaccinated Yale community members. 

“One of my goals as an artist is to be unapologetically queer and to not shy away from being loud and proud,” Bruhns said. “I think about my younger self and how much more of a difference it would have made to see myself represented on stage.”

Bruhns grew up in a “very, very small town” in Northern California that they felt was homophobic and transphobic. It was not until a trip to San Francisco and a visit to drag-themed bar “Hamburger Mary’s” with friends that Bruhns felt that there was a place for them in the world. 

“Because of where I grew up, it is still taking me a long time to undo a lot of the self-hatred or internalized homophobia and transphobia … [Through productions], I hope to show the humanness of queer people and destigmatize [queer sex],” Bruhns said.

Harry Davis wrote the play’s original script when he was an undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara. It was initially about a relationship between a man and a woman, yet as Bruhns “fell in love” with the play, the directors adapted the plot into a story between two queer characters. For example, one of the play’s original scenes about a pregnancy scare was replaced by a scene about an HIV scare in hopes of “bringing these issues into the conversation and making them less taboo.”

Iverson joined Bruhns in directing the show because he was “drawn to the nature of the [play’s] relationship,” which he described as “a case study between two specific human beings who are desperately seeking ‘big love’ in their life yet have no clue how to go about that.”

The show’s title “The Hedgehog’s Dilemma” is a metaphor for the relationship between the characters in the play. It references a real phenomenon in which two hedgehogs try to huddle together under cold weather yet must remain apart to avoid hurting one another with their sharp spines.

“I think it’s so beautiful that these 19-year-olds are trying to find themselves in the world, despite a complicated mess of what relationships can be like when they’re trying their best and sometimes say the wrong thing,” Bruhns said.

Due to University COVID-19 restrictions, a number of changes were made to the show’s initial plan. 

According to Yale Cabaret artistic director Sarah Cain DRA ’22, “The Hedgehog’s Dilemma” was initially supposed to open in mid-January, but was postponed when COVID-19 cases began to spike in December. Cain noted, however, that in the end the change was beneficial not just in public health terms, but also because it allowed the production team more time to “build the world of the play.”

While the show is running, the Cabaret will not serve food and drinks as it typically does, and the performers will be masked throughout the performance. 

Despite these abnormalities, the team came up with ways to ensure a high production quality. Because the show is set entirely in a dorm room, the team placed seats on three sides of the stage to create a sense of intimacy while also reducing audience capacity.

Iverson added that “we obey the University’s COVID-19 restrictions, but we put the audience as close as possible to the set so that they can see the details of the scenes — so there’s almost a film-like quality.”

Cain added that performing with masks on for a show defined by its intimate moments can be challenging, but the directors did “a fantastic job” of creating palpable chemistry despite the face coverings.

“We spent all of the previous school year on Zoom, so there was just this eagerness and hunger to do a show,” Bruhns said, reflecting on the rehearsals. “At the end of the day, we’re just really, really grateful to finally be doing a show live with other people and share the experience with you.”