Paloma Vigil, Contributing Photographer

A Yale production of Tony-winning musical “In The Heights” was interrupted mid-scene and told to shut down on Thursday night.

The show — which began at 9:00 p.m. on Dec. 1 in Pauli Murray College’s Lighten Theater — was on track to run over the 11:00 p.m. start of residential college quiet hours. Despite email permission from the Murray Head of College Office to “go over a bit,” the Lighten Theater Manager, a student employee of Yale Undergraduate Production, turned on all theater lights at promptly 11 p.m. and announced that the show needed to stop.  The show was around 10-15 minutes from concluding. 

After an 11-minute discussion between the Lighten Theater Manager, the show stage manager and the director, Erick López ’24, the cast was told they could complete the show without an orchestra, microphones or clapping. They finished the rest of the musical a cappella and ended around 11:35, two cast members told the News.

“We were shut down during a show where we sing about being stripped of our power to be heard,” Isabella Walther-Meade ’25, another lead who plays the character of Vanessa, wrote. “Being forced to finish the show with no mics, orchestra, or applause was a total slap in the face to everybody involved. It felt like a purposeful humiliation for absolutely no reason.”

The Lighten Theater Manager did not respond to requests for comment.

The themes of “In The Heights” — Latinx communities and their efforts to pursue their dreams in the face of adversity — made the interruption particularly hurtful, according to members of the cast.

Students involved in the production said that the interruption was frustrating since they had received permission to run over curfew. For many, the frustration was amplified given that the show is the only majority-Latinx theater performance of the semester — leading some to question if similar treatment would be given to a predominantly white production.

“In the Heights is the only production on campus this semester that is a direct homage to the Latiné community; it is a celebration of community, resistance, and love,” assistant director Montse Rodriguez ’25 wrote to the News. “Would this have happened if the show was ‘Hello, Dolly?’ Just something to consider.”

One of the News’ staff reporters, Paloma Vigil, plays Camila Rosario as part of the “In The Heights” cast

The three remaining shows scheduled for this weekend are still set to continue. In response to Thursday’s events, however, the team decided to move up their final performance from Saturday at 9 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to reduce the potential of running into quiet hours.

Initially, the five “In The Heights” showings were scheduled for Dec. 1 at six p.m., Dec. 1 at 10 p.m., Dec. 3 at 12 p.m., Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. and Dec. 3 at 9 p.m. According to emails obtained by the News between Pauli Murray Operations Manager Melissa Jungeblut and López, Jungeblut first reached out to López on Nov. 17, informing him that a show start-time of 10 p.m. violated the Lighten Theater’s curfew for shows as well as flagging the general 11 p.m. cutoff time.

In response, on Nov. 18, López notified Jungeblut that the 10 p.m. showtime had been moved up to 9 p.m. On Nov. 23, López offered to move the Dec. 1 nine o’clock show up by 15 to 30 minutes. In a response on the same day, Jungeblut told him starting at 9 p.m. would be fine.

“I trust that you and your cast will do your best to finish by 11,” Jungeblut wrote in her Nov. 23 email to López. “If you happen to go over a bit, I will just notify the residents above that space that this may happen. You are okay starting at 9.”

Jungeblut did not immediately provide comment to the News on this incident.

In an email to the News, Murray Head of College Tina Lu wrote that the situation involved “a lot of well-intentioned people and some crossed wires.”

“As I understand it, what happened is this: there was a lapse of communication between Pauli Murray’s Operations Manager and the theater managers,” Lu wrote. “They usually work in close collaboration, but she was taking a very very well deserved vacation (of more than a week) after working hard hours for the last year, and she’s the central node of communication between the performers and the theater managers.”

Lu added that the theater managers tend to “err on the side of care” when it comes to keeping the theater quiet at night, as it is in close proximity to faculty apartments where some families with young children live.

Cast members who spoke to the News said they wished the student Lighten Theater Manager had spoken to the director or another member of the production team prior to interrupting the show mid-scene. This would have offered production members a chance to share the email permission from Jungeblut and clear up any misunderstanding, López said.

Eliana Cortez ’25, who plays Abuela Claudia in the show, questioned why there was not prior notice given as it became obvious that the show would not end by 11 p.m.

“If the house manager was operating under the belief that the production had no agreement to go past 11pm, why couldn’t they remind/alert the prod team and cast that we would need to stop at 11pm?” Cortez wrote to the News. “By 10:50pm, I’m sure it became abundantly clear to them that there was no way we weren’t going to go over time. Why did they feel the need to blindside the audience, the prod team, and cast?”

In an email to López on Nov. 22, Jungeblut noted that on its Yale Connect registration page, the show’s runtime was listed as 2 and a half hours. López clarified in a response email on Nov. 23 that the show’s runtime was in fact two hours, which he had told Jungeblut prior, and that the listing on Yale Connect had used a temporary placeholder. He also apologized for resultant misunderstandings. 

Cast members repeatedly described the events as “absolutely unheard of” for any production, citing prior shows that have run overtime in the Lighten Theater.

“As an actor, who’s been in productions every year for the past 8 years, this had never happened to me before, to come onstage and stop a show right in front of an audience is absolutely unheard of,” José Sarmiento ’25 wrote. “But, then again, I guess Latinos are used to being silenced.”

One audience member told the News they found the interruption “shocking,” and another called it “very unfair.”

When registration for the five shows was released, all seats sold out in eight minutes, according to a post on the “In The Heights” Instagram page.

The Lighten Theater seats up to 85 people.

ANIKA SETH
Anika Seth writes about admissions, financial aid and alumni as well as diversity, equity and inclusion at Yale. She also lays out the weekly print edition of the News as an editor of the production desk and is co-chair of Diversity & Inclusion. Anika previously covered STEM at Yale, particularly new facilities projects and investments. Originally from the D.C. Metro area, Anika is a sophomore in Branford College double majoring in biomedical engineering and women's, gender and sexuality studies.