Courtesy of Soleil Singh and Lauren Marut

When Soleil Singh ’24 and Lauren Marut ’25, originally of the undergraduate class of 2024, first arrived at Yale, neither wanted anything to do with theater — despite doing it all throughout high school. Singh joined the Yale Entrepreneurial Society and wrote for the Yale Daily News, while Marut signed up for Directed Studies and planned to major in Ethics, Politics and Economics. 

However, as Singh grappled with reduced artistic opportunities during the pandemic and Marut with a gap semester during her first year, both performers realized just how much they “wanted theater in their lives,” according to Marut. At the beginning of the following year, the duo decided to co-found the Yale Artists Cabaret with the mission of creating a low-stakes and accessible musical theater experience. 

“We designed this organization with the hopes of making theater a place of joy, instead of stress, anxiety and insecurity,” said Marut. “Because as performers, we have a lifetime of that ahead. So why not take these opportunities that we have now and make them work for us, and make people relish in the fact that they get to perform? That’s what we really hope to spotlight.” 

Singh, who is Indian American, said that her initial reluctance to do musical theater in college stemmed from her experience at her arts high school. Because none of her high schools’ productions “fit an Indian demographic,” Singh said that she felt limited by the types of performances in which she could participate.

Singh was only able to rediscover her love of theater after realizing how many opportunities were available to her at Yale. Marut, who is also Asian American, said that it was “really nice” having a collaborator who shared a vision to “create opportunities for Asian American artists” and carve out new paths in theater.

“In some capacities, I consider YAC to be original work because we are curating brand new shows, which is really extremely exciting,” Singh said. “Something that I’ve always wanted to do is not just do traditional theater, kind of because most of my high school experience was trying to fit into a box. I wanted to think outside of that and create new opportunities elsewhere, which led me to YAC.” 

Marut also recalled how her high school experiences inspired her to make theater spaces accessible through YAC. Marut attended a public school in Chicago, which offered a liberal arts education but did not teach her how to film self-tapes or select songs for auditions, she said.  

According to Marut, these barriers of access require “a lot of self-education” on the part of the performer, which can make it more difficult for people to consider careers in theater. In order to combat these challenges, the pair decided to offer auditions through both live performances and video recordings.

“I think what’s really unique and fun about our audition tapes is we truly just require that you sing something,” said Singh. “We have casted people who have filmed a cool video of them singing in their car or acapella videos or they can sing in their bathroom. It can be any genre. It does not have to be musical theater. It can be pop, it can be anything that your heart desires, because we really just want to see what you want to bring to the show.” 

Isabella Walther-Meade ’25 said that YAC was the “reason [she] started doing theater at Yale.” She added that Marut and Singh were able to create a special environment due to their “understanding of the social aspect of theater.” 

Throughout Walther-Meade’s Yale career, YAC has played a large part in introducing her to different performers and communities.

“Because of the lower commitment and more flexible rehearsal model, it was such a welcoming entry point,” she said. “It’s been such an important way to build community in the Yale theater space — I’ve met people through YAC who I’ve ended up working on so many other projects with.”

Since its founding, YAC has welcomed performers from every part of the Yale community, said Marut. The casts represent various theatrical backgrounds, majors and extracurricular groups.  

As YAC enters its third season, Singh and Marut have seen previous performers grow and enter new performance spaces. 

“Because of how frequent our shows are, we’ve really gotten to see certain performers develop over their tenure,” said Marut. “It’s cool because this organization is one that can stick with a performer through their career at Yale and one where we hope to see people come back.” 

While YAC highlights solo performances from students across the University, the organization also strives to create community between the performers, members of production and audience members, said Singh. At the end of the semester, YAC hosts a “YAC Formal” that celebrates everyone involved in production. 

Audience members who have attended a certain number of YAC shows are also invited to these formals, as Singh and Marut check their attendance records through YaleConnect registration. 

Marut said that she hopes for this sense of community to extend beyond her and YAC members’ time at Yale. 

“The idea of building an alumni network, for example, is really exciting. Because it doesn’t have to be a formalized process, but it can be a way that we build community beyond Yale,” Marut said. “Yale Artists Cabaret’s mission of cultivating artistry and community, we can scale it beyond college.” 

Every YAC performance either begins or ends with a duet from Marut and Singh. Most recently, the pair has made their cabaret debut at 54 Below — a New York City supper club featuring cabaret shows. 

As Singh enters her final year at Yale, the duo’s next project will be a joint solo show at Old Heidelberg on Nov. 8. While each singer will perform solo on stage, the duo will still share the show, said Marut: “It’s just us two.”  

“Our friendship has grown so much through doing this organization,” said Marut. “YAC has afforded us a really unique collaboration, in the sense that we’ve really had to rely on each other for a lot. When you’re working so closely with someone on so many projects, you naturally get to know each other and come to depend on each other for nonprofessional things.” 

YAC’s next show is “10:59” at the Off-Broadway Theatre on Oct. 27.