“The Bechdel Test” underscores the need for more diverse theater
Yale Artists Cabaret debuts with “The Bechdel Test,” a performance celebrating women
Zoe Berg, Photo Editor
At the Off Broadway Theater, a spotlight illuminates three figures at the center of the stage. The trio of singers belt out the melody of “No More Wasted Time,” from the musical “If/Then” : “No more wasted time, no more wasted breath … starting now! Now!”
“The Bechdel Test,” showing at the Off Broadway Theater on March 16 and 17 — is the first performance produced by the Yale Artists Cabaret, or YAC, a new performing arts group co-founded by Lily Pérez ’24, Lauren Marut ’25 and Soleil Singh ’24. The show’s concept was a musical theater cabaret performance featuring songs that all passed the Bechdel test, a measure of representation of women in fiction that primarily requires two women to speak to each other about something other than a man. The YAC plans on putting on multiple artist cabarets in the upcoming semesters.
Pérez said that she first felt the need for gender diversity in Yale theater productions while working on another student’s senior thesis.
“The show had almost all male characters and tried to balance it out with a non-male production team. That was the first time I saw such a stark cultural difference in the way we interacted,” Pérez said.
Marut agreed that oftentimes performing arts communities form rigid divisions and groupings that can be limiting creatively, “becoming a little insular.”
“The a capella community can seem very tightly knit. Then you have the musical theater community, the drama community, the dance groups,” Marut added. “Especially in light of the COVID-19 policies, it feels like we are very stratified across campus in terms of our vested interests, even though we all have a vested interest in the same thing — performing.”
Pérez, Marut and Singh all emphasized the importance of collaboration and teamwork in the YAC and its newest production. Even more than the diversification of theatermakers at Yale, the group hopes to prompt the creation of a new community in the performing arts.
“It’s not just collaboration in performance that we want to encourage,” Singh said. “It’s about collaboration in writing, directing and behind the scenes work.”
For Marut and Singh, collaboration and increased creative diversity has been a personal wish. They both spoke about the lack of non-male narratives and characters in theater productions that they have worked on.
“Out of every show that we’ve been a part of, which has been many, not a single scene in any one of those shows has passed the Bechdel Test,” Marut remarked.
Natalie Brown ’25, who, along with Olivia Ridley ’25, will perform “What About Love” from the dramatic adaptation of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” said that being a part of the YAC has also been a new and exciting creative process.
“It’s really affirming to be rehearsing in a space that’s all women,” Brown said. “It’s something that’s super rare in theater.”
The co-founders of the YAC also want the performance to serve as a reminder to theater producers and community members to put on shows featuring non-male people, not only for women, but also for gender nonconforming, nonbinary and genderfluid performances on campus.
The songs in “The Bechdel Test” range from the anxious “Failing an Exam,” performed by Ridley, to the playful “Rather Be Me” sung by Sammi Pohly ’24. The songs’ common factors are their focus on women as women, with thoughts, feelings and dreams of their own. Gone are vacuous soliloquies about pining for a phlegmatic husband, instead replaced by paeans to ladies, dames and broads. The program for “The Bechdel Test” spans topics including lesbianism to motherhood, academic dreams to crippling loneliness.
“The Bechdel Test” passes any exam flawlessly.
Tickets for the show are sold out, but the waitlist is open.