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Miriam A. Hyman Receives 2016 Annenberg Fellowship

Miriam A. Hyman ’12 recently received a 2016 Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, which offers two years of generous support to emerging artists. “I’m so thankful to be recognized and honored to be among the recipients. The award says not only do we see what you do, but we also see a future,” says Miriam. The fellowship will give her “the leisure to explore” and access to opportunities she wouldn’t otherwise have. She envisions the fellowship as a chance to improve her craft and ask herself, “What else can I do?” 

Miriam is already doing quite a lot. This spring she performed in Evan Yionoulis’s ’85, YC ’82 (Faculty) production of Cymbeline at Yale Rep, alongside a cast that included many YSD alumni. Miriam played the role of Posthumus—Evan cast a number of women as male characters. “Major props and kudos to Evan for having the boldness and veracity to bend the gender and create more roles for women,” says Miriam. “I can speak the truth of this text. It doesn’t matter that I’m a woman, or that I’m African American. My truth matters.”

Earlier this year, Miriam played Berniece in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ. She currently has a recurring role on CBS’s Blue Bloods as the medical examiner, Emile Cooper, and has recorded her first audio book, Natalie Baszile’s Queen Sugar. Miriam’s recent film work includes The Congressman (currently in theatres), where she can be seen alongside Treat Williams; Split, which premiered at the Sarasota Film Festival; and the upcoming Most Beautiful Island.

Miriam is also a hip hop emcee, with the rap moniker Robyn Hood. She says that her music, which “is all about uplifting and education through entertainment,” is deeply connected to her identity as a classical actor. She started writing lyrics during Creating Actor Generated Work, a course at YSD taught by Joan MacIntosh (Faculty), and became invested in the process while performing in Richard III at the Public Theater in 2012. She says, “My music has made my Shakespeare better, and my Shakespeare has made my music better.”

Miriam A. Hyman. Photo by Sheldon Woodley.

Atlanta Beckons

There’s a lot in store in Atlanta for Jiréh Breon Holder ’16. His play, Too Heavy for Your Pocket, has won the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, and will be produced at the Alliance Theatre in the 2016-17 season. And, Jiréh was recently named Playwriting Fellow of the Department of Theater and Creative Writing Program at Emory University, where he will have the opportunity to explore his craft while engaging with students and the local artistic community. “As a young artist gaining recognition in American theatre, he is a terrific role model for our students,” commented Janice Akers, the artistic director of Theater Emory. 

For Jiréh, this all feels a bit like going home—he attended playwriting classes at Emory while earning his BA in Drama from Morehouse College, where he served as artistic director of the Spellman College Playwrights’ Workshop. Theater Emory was the first professional company to produce his work—The Book of Joe, a one-act monologue featured in Emory’s Brave New Works Festival. “When I was an undergraduate desperately seeking an outlet for my playwriting passion, Emory welcomed me with open arms,” says Jiréh. After college, he stayed in Atlanta to serve as the 2012-13 Kenny Leon Fellow at the Alliance. “I am especially excited to work on my plays while immersed in the community that inhabits them,” he says. “Most of my plays take place in the South, so getting the voices and rhythms right is important to me. I cannot wait to return to Atlanta to teach, research, and engage the community.”

Jiréh is currently the artistic director of Pyramid Theatre Company in Des Moines, Iowa. His plays have been produced at the Yale Cabaret and Yale School of Drama, where his collaboration with Tori Sampson ’17, Some Bodies Travel, was recently presented at the 11th Carlotta Festival of New Plays. His work has received readings at Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre, the Alliance Theatre, the Old Globe Theatre, and Theater Emory.—Maria Inês Marques ’17

Jiréh Breon Holder. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Yi Zhao Receives Vilcek Prize

Yi Zhao ’12 received a 2016 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Theatre. The Vilcek Foundation awards this prize to young immigrants who are making significant contributions to biomedical science and the arts. Yi says, “I felt really honored not only to be awarded the prize but also to be recognized alongside my collaborators, Blanka Zizka, Desdemona Chiang, and Sarah Benson.” Zizka is the artistic director of the Wilma Theater and worked with Yi on Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; Yi is designing for Chiang’s production of The Winter’s Tale at Oregon Shakespeare Festival this summer; and last fall he designed for Benson’s production of FUTURITY at Soho Rep and Ars Nova.

Yi was born in Beijing and came to the U.S. for college. He studied lighting design at YSD and has since worked on many productions at regional, off-Broadway, and off-off-Broadway theatres. Next spring, Yi will return to Yale to design the lighting for the Rep production of Assassins. In an interview for the Vilcek Foundation’s website, Yi quoted lighting designer Jennifer Tipton (Faculty)—“99% of the audience does not notice lighting, but 100% of the audience is affected by it.” He adds, “I just hope to be able to serve the performance as well as I can each time.”

Yi appreciates the importance of the Vilcek Foundation’s mission to support the work of immigrants in the U.S. “There is this theory that there’s a tendency for new immigrants to blend in and assimilate, to not stand out,” he says. “But one thing I've realized through this process is that everyone has a different background and different story to tell. This foundation celebrates that diversity of stories.”

This spring, Yi designed the lighting for Lileana Blain-Cruz’s ’12 productions of Red Speedo at New York Theatre Workshop and Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. at Soho Rep. “Lileana has been my closest collaborator since graduation,” says Yi. “We’ve really developed a vocabulary.” They have worked together on a number of plays, including Yale Rep’s production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s War and Much Ado about Nothing at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In returning to OSF this summer for The Winter’s Tale, Yi is collaborating on the first production of this size at OSF to feature a cast mainly composed of Asian and Asian American actors. He is cautiously optimistic that we are in the midst of a “paradigm shift in the theatre community.” Yi adds, “Greater diversity in casts and artistic teams ultimately contributes to art that more closely resembles the world we live in.”

Yi Zhao with his Vilcek Prize. Photo courtesy of the Vilcek Foundation.

Christiane’s Theatre

This year, the city of Itajubá, Brazil, gained a new public theatre. Inaugurated on March 12, 2016, the venue has been named after Brazilian dramaturg and critic, Christiane Riêra ’00, DFA ’06, who died in 2012 at the age 44, after a long struggle with lung cancer. Christiane maintained a close relationship with her hometown throughout her life, and now, 60 years after Itajubá’s main venue was demolished, the Christiane Riêra Municipal Theatre is seen as a fundamental tool in the revitalization of the city’s economy, as well as its artistic and community life. In addition to a large auditorium, which seats 712, the building houses a cultural center for theatre, music, and dance training. “It is magical that others will learn about the arts Christiane loved so much, in a space dedicated to her,” says Kate Doak ’00.

Before coming to YSD, Christiane received a master’s degree in literary theory and comparative studies from the University of São Paulo. During her time at YSD, she served as dramaturg on several productions, including The Imaginary Invalid (Yale Rep), directed by Mark Rucker ’92, Macbeth, directed by David Kennedy ’00, and The Misanthrope, directed by Lisa Channer ’01. She also collaborated with the Flea Theater, and wrote for The Village Voice, Bravo!, and Theater. Christiane’s extraordinary talent for writing earned her Yale’s Truman Capote Award.

In Brazil, Christiane pioneered the use of dramaturgy in moviemaking. Working as a consultant and development coordinator, she helped screenwriters and directors craft some of the country’s most acclaimed films. Between 2010 and 2011, Christiane also served as theatre critic for Folha de São Paulo, and was doing postdoctoral work on film dramaturgy at University of São Paulo at the time of her death. The YSD community is proud that this new theatre will celebrate the legacy of outstanding achievement in dramaturgy and criticism of our friend and colleague Christiane.—Maria Inês Marques ’17

Christiane Riêra with her son, João. Photo courtesy of Kate Doak.


A Visit with David Henry Hwang

“To have a career in the arts, you need talent, hard work, and luck,” said playwright David Henry Hwang ’83 during an informal discussion led by Ashley Chang ’16 at the Drama School in May. The author of more than 20 plays and several opera librettos, he has garnered three Tony nominations (winning Best Play in 1988 for M. Butterfly), is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and has won Drama Desk, Obie, and Outer Critic Circle awards. David has also found success in television and film—he’s currently writing for Sarah Treem’s ’05, YC ’02 Showtime series The Affair.  

David has built his career examining the Asian American experience onstage, delving into questions of assimilation, identity, and culture. “My work is Asian American because I am Asian American,” he said. “Anything I do gets put through the filter of who I am.” Because he’s passionate about issues of equity and inclusion in his work, he’s also passionate about them in his life. “It’s a reciprocal thing. The artist creates the work, but the work also creates the artist.”

When developing characters, David doesn’t worry about finding a suitable actor—“I’ve spent my whole career creating roles that the industry says you shouldn’t be able to cast. When you create the opportunity, you find the artist who can do it.” Although his work is appreciated by all different types of theatregoers, David notices something unique when his plays are performed for Asian or Asian American audiences. “There’s a laugh that says ‘that’s funny,’ and a laugh that says ‘I understand that,’ and there’s a difference,” he explains.

David mentioned that as a young playwright, he felt compelled to write white characters, rather than those that reflected his own heritage—an experience echoed by playwriting students of color at the talk. He suspects this desire is caused by the nature of American media. “We grow up seeing and identifying with white characters, and we end up emulating that.” Citing the changing demographics of the country, David rejects this whitewashed idea of what is normal, arguing that “the whole notion of mainstream needs to be redefined.” He does see progress happening on this front. “Two years ago there were no TV shows with Asian American leads,” he said. “Now there are five or six.”

In pursuing opportunities in television, David is doing his part to change the culture of mainstream media. Even so, he says that theatre will always be his home. “I love the theatre because it’s comfortable with metaphor. It gives you liberty to acknowledge and accentuate the not-real—that’s why it will always be the form closest to my heart.”—Sam Linden ’19, SOM ’19

Ashley Chang and David Henry Hwang. Photo by Sam Linden.

Drama in the Dorm

James Magruder ’88, DFA ’92, who is currently writing a book about the history of Yale Rep in honor of the Rep’s 50th anniversary, recently published another book about Yale. Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall is a fictionalized reckoning of his first year in New Haven, 1983-84, when he was a graduate student in the French department—“before I defected to the Drama School,” he says. The novel follows five residents of the much beloved dormitory, Helen Hadley Hall, as they attempt to reinvent themselves, get noticed, and find love.

The characters are all modelled on people James knows from that year. He reports that “the actual love slaves are thrilled about the book.” He remembers a time when he and some friends were sitting together in Hadley Hall’s lounge and someone said, “One day we’ll write a book about this.” James recalls thinking, “Yeah, right—are we really that interesting?” He began writing about these friends in 1996, but put down the project for a time to write his first novel, Sugarless, and a collection of stories, Let Me See It, before returning to Love Slaves several years later.

When asked why he chose to write about the 1983-84 school year, James explains, “That year was so important because it was the year AIDS was discovered to be a virus, and that changed everything.” The AIDS epidemic looms over the residents of Hadley Hall, tracing a sobering thread through the funny, bawdy, but always earnest lives of the characters. In this way the book becomes an homage to those who lost their lives to the disease.

Watching over the entire novel is Helen Hadley, the long-deceased namesake of the dorm. From her faded portrait in the lounge, she follows the action of her favorites, taking joy in their schemes and accepting without question their oddities. James says, “It took me 14 years to find her voice, and she was there all along, on the first page, in her portrait on the wall.”

James Magruder on a Helen Hadley Hall outing to Mystic, CT in 1983. Photo and book cover courtesy of James Magruder.

From YSD to YDS

After almost two decades of television and film acting, Evan Parke ’97 has returned to New Haven to train for the next phase of his career, this time at Yale Divinity School. “I have a passion for storytelling and a passion for service and justice that is global,” says Evan. With the theological framework he acquires at the Divinity School, he plans to found a tuition-free, faith-based school in Brooklyn.

Evan explains that he has always been fascinated by the powerful impact public theologians like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have had globally. Living in L.A., he became more aware of gangs and youth culture and saw “how the environment set up these kids’ whole lives.” It was then that Evan decided he wanted to work in education and create opportunities for low-income students to find their vocations and achieve economic stability.

For Evan, spirituality is central to his mission. He talks about “inviting the divine into the solution.” Evan’s school will be modelled on the NativityMiguel Coalition, a collection of faith-based schools that serve poor and marginalized communities, offering an extended day, rigorous academics, small class sizes, and support for students long after graduation. They are also committed to providing a holistic education, one that helps students grow morally, socially, and spiritually. Evan says, “We’re all created in the image of God, and we’ve got to treat all people that way. I want my school to be a place where that happens.”

While a full-time student, Evan is continuing to act. This year he has roles in the indie films Smartass and Blue: The American Dream, and in the Netflix series The Get Down. Evan reports, “Acting while in divinity school is a real challenge, but I’m finding a way to do both.” He’s also planning to apply to Yale School of Management, and to start a fund that will support his school and others like it. Evan knows it’s a lot of work, but he’s confident—“with storytelling and social entrepreneurship, I’m going to be able to do this.”

Evan Parke in the Yale Divinity School Quad. Photo courtesy of Evan Parke.

Marin’s New Dramaturg

Lydia Garcia ’08 was recently appointed literary manager and resident dramaturg at Marin Theatre Company in San Francisco. Lydia couldn’t be more excited about her new role: “Positions like this are such a rare opportunity. There are so few institutional positions for dramaturgs.” Lydia comes to Marin after seven years working on new and classic plays as resident dramaturg at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF).

In a recent press release, Marin’s artistic director, Jasson Minadakis, wrote that Lydia “is one of the true leaders in forwarding new play dramaturgy and in mentoring the field’s next generation of dramaturgs.” Lydia in turn notes, “Marin is so dedicated to new American works. OSF was like a second masters in learning the classical canon. Marin is the next step in my continuing evolution.”

Lydia serves as a key advisor on artistic programming and manages Marin’s two national play prizes: the David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize and the Sky Cooper New American Play Prize. She says she is excited to have “a finger on the pulse of what writers are thinking” and to engage one-on-one with new voices.

This winter, Lydia served as a facilitator at YSD for Carmen Morgan’s (Faculty) artEquity workshop on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Her participation in artEquity began at OSF, and she is continuing this work at her new artistic home. She says, “I can’t look at a play without looking at the rest of the world.”

In moving to Marin, Lydia has enjoyed reconnecting with YSD classmate, Michael Barker ’10, SOM ’10, who until recently served as the company’s managing director. “There is something so special about the relationships and connections that you build in three years at YSD. Now to be able to connect in the field is phenomenal.”—Al Heartley ’18

Lydia Garcia. Photo by Jenny Graham.

All the World’s a Vineyard

For Tara Kayton ’11, theatre and wine go hand in hand. “The art of making wine is similar to the art of making theatre,” she says. “Both require a lot of chemistry and a lot of artistry.” A native of California’s wine country, Tara dreamed of founding an outdoor classical theatre company on a winery even before she applied to YSD. She now has a company, Shakespeare on the Vine, which performs at Brice Station Vineyards in Murphys, California—“It’s in the Sierras, full of beautiful sequoias and rolling hills.”

In making Brice Station its permanent home, Shakespeare on the Vine is developing a relationship with a for-profit business that understands the arts. Tara credits her training in YSD’s theater management program with giving her the tools to make this relationship and her company sustainable. The company’s first production was a night of sonnets, scenes, and music in Napa Valley in 2013. In the summer of 2014, Tara collaborated with a local community theatre in a production of Twelfth Night at Brice Station. “I used that summer to see if this could be the place for our permanent home,” she says. The company officially launched last summer with a gender-bending The Taming of the Shrew in commedia dell’arte style.

This summer Shakespeare on the Vine will perform As You Like It from July 29 to August 27. Audiences will arrive before the performance for picnic dinners and wine tasting. The play will feature French cabaret-style set design, and the actors, band, and audience will all move into the nearby woods, following Rosalind and Celia in their exile to the Forest of Arden. In addition to providing a picturesque setting for audiences and an opportunity for innovative staging, an outdoor production also changes the way the artists work. “There’s a different kind of focus,” says Tara.

A number of YSD alumni have been a part of Shakespeare on the Vine’s productions—Ryan M. Davis ’11, a current DFA candidate, is the company’s resident dramaturg; Janet Cunningham (Staff), stage carpenter at Yale Rep, is assistant director; Laura J. Eckelman ’11 designed the lighting for Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew; Heidi Hanson ’09 is this season’s costume designer; and Elliot B. Quick ’12 worked on the company’s first production in Napa Valley. Each summer, the cast and creative team come to Brice Station from all over the U.S. and from other countries as well. Tara describes the result as “a beautiful example of collaboration.”

Top: (Left to right) Emily C. Wilson, Charlene West, and Shelby Rose Richardson in "The Taming of the Shrew."

Bottom: The audience at Brice Station. Photos by Leda Mast Photography.

Playwright and Teacher

Tarell Alvin McCraney ’07, award-winning playwright of The Brother/Sister Plays and recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, has returned to his home city as the newly appointed Professor of Theatre and Civic Engagement at the University of Miami. In addition to teaching undergraduates, he is partnering with Miami-Dade County, Arts4Learning, and the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center to create an intensive three-year program in theatre training for African American high school girls. Tarell says, “The hope and aim is to engage, stimulate, and nurture artists right here.”  

The program, which begins this summer, will admit students when they are sophomores. Over the three years, participants will act in classical Greek plays, experiment with playwriting, and as seniors, write and perform their own plays. Undergraduates from the University of Miami theatre department will serve as mentors.

Tarell, who grew up in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, hopes to create opportunities for more students to engage with the arts and tell their stories. He says, “Oftentimes, we say we want a very diverse community with lots of voices that come together at the table and meet. Well, there are underserved parts of our community and by sharing resources we can open up the channel of dialogue.”

Tarell Alvin McCraney. Photo courtesy of Creative Artists Agency.

Another Lorraine Hansberry Masterpiece

This spring Drew Lichtenberg ’08 served as dramaturg for Yaël Farber’s production of Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs at London’s National Theatre. Joi Gresham, Hansberry’s stepdaughter and the director and trustee of the Lorraine Hansberry Literary Trust, was closely involved in the project. Drew credits Drama 50—YSD’s course for first-year actors, directors, dramaturgs, and playwrights—and Elinor Fuchs’s (Former Faculty) famous “squinting” technique with preparing him for this collaborative process.

Hansberry died before she was able to finish the play. “Lorraine struggled with it for four years,” says Drew. “She died with it open on her hospital bed.” Hansberry left behind three drafts, which her husband, Robert Nemiroff, combined and published. Before rehearsals began, Drew says he met with Farber and Gresham “to squint our eyes and see if we could understand what Lorraine was trying to say with these three drafts, to think about what the next step would be.”

As the team worked, they were ever mindful of the questions the play raises about race and colonialism. “Lorraine was writing Les Blancs at a moment when Malcolm Little was becoming Malcolm X, and Cassius Clay was becoming Muhammad Ali, a time of African Nationalism, when many American blacks were trying to come to grips with the deprivations of the Middle Passage and an awareness of an identity that comes from being transported,” explains Drew. “By setting Les Blancs in Africa, Lorraine was attempting to encapsulate that big idea in one play. We’re still coming to grips with how big and how contemporary this play is.”

Drew also kept in mind a line from one of Hansberry’s notebooks—“a classical people deserves a classical art.” He explains that Hansberry was working to create a new classicism for the African American experience and that Les Blancs “is her version of a Greek tragedy, and also has elements that reflect Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Expressionism.”

The production was well received—The Guardian wrote that “it gathers power as the evening goes on…not just because of flames and pain but because of the sinuousness of the argument”—and the opening night audience responded with a standing ovation, a rarity for the National Theatre. Drew says, “Our hope was to reinvestigate Les Blancs as perhaps Hansberry’s most ambitious work, to make a case for it as her masterwork, and I think we more than fulfilled our mandate. Joi is very excited about the possibility of bringing it to America, so you haven’t heard the last of this production.”

(Left to right) Joi Gresham, Yaël Farber, and Drew Lichtenberg at opening night of "Les Blancs." Photo courtesy of Drew Lichtenberg.

White Heron Comes to Roost

White Heron Theatre Company, founded by Lynne Bolton, a member of YSD's Board of Advisors, will unveil a newly built theatre this summer. Lynne, who serves as the company’s artistic director, moved White Heron from New York to Nantucket in 2012, but it did not initially have a performance space. “We made a black box out of a tent, and I bought chairs on eBay from a Jehovah’s Witness hall,” says Lynne. The new theatre is located on the last buildable lot in the historic area of downtown Nantucket. Lynne hopes the space will become a new cultural and educational center for the island.

A number of YSD alumni have worked at White Heron, including Rob Campbell ’91, Caitlin Clouthier ’08, Max Roll ’13, and Brandy Zarle ’97. Marcus Dean Fuller ’04 is on White Heron’s board of advisors.

The inaugural production in the new theatre will be Napoli, Brooklyn by Meghan Kennedy, which will open White Heron’s summer season on June 30. Through a collaboration with Gordon Edelstein, artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre, the play will be produced at Long Wharf in the fall, and then at Roundabout Theatre next spring. Lynne and Gordon have collaborated on a number of productions. “We go back and forth to choose the play that works for both theatres,” says Lynne.

White Heron will also be a host for the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab this summer. This partnership will allow them to offer more support to new plays and emerging playwrights. Five playwrights will be in residence for a writers’ workshop and each of their plays will receive a staged reading. One play will be fully produced in the White Heron repertory next season, with the possibility of going on to Long Wharf. Lynne describes this process as a way to “incubate new plays and know that they have a life after White Heron.”

(Top) Michael Kopko (left) and Brandy Zarle (right) in White's Heron's "God of Carnage." (Bottom) Michael Kopko and Lynne Bolton in the new theatre during construction.Photos courtesy of Michael Kopko.

A Design Partnership

Since her time as a design student at YSD, Kate Cusack ’06 has been making jewelry out of a material we usually see as utilitarian and ordinary: zippers. Her Zipper Jewelry has been featured in dozens of fashion magazines including Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. “I really enjoy seeing people smile when they realize what my work is made out of,” says Kate. “Elevating a material that is normally overlooked has a bigger impact than starting with a precious material. It really makes people stop and think and see their world in a different way.”

Kate also creates custom headdresses, hats, and sculptural costumes using materials like paper and plastic wrap for clients such as The Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco, Tiffany & Company, and Nordstrom. Trained as a costume designer, she credits YSD with teaching her research skills that have become vital to her design process. “If I hadn’t had that training, the finished designs wouldn’t have been so thoughtful,” she said.

Kate has been selected multiple times to show her work in the highly-competitive Smithsonian Craft Show, where artists present and sell their artwork in a 10 x 10 space. To help her determine the layout, she uses a 3D model with a scale figure, something she learned in Ming Cho Lee’s (Faculty) scenic design class. Kate’s husband, Burke Brown ‘07, creates lighting environments for her displays. When he’s not lighting Kate’s special events, Burke’s credits include lighting design for New York and regional theatres, as well as lighting for international festivals.

Burke also has an extensive career in lighting design for dance, which he first became involved in when he volunteered to light a dance concert for Yale College students. Later, Jennifer Tipton (Faculty) invited lighting design students to New York to watch tech rehearsals for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. These experiences taught Burke how to light a performance quickly. “In theatre, you have a 10 out of 12 (a technical rehearsal where the company rehearses for 10 out of 12 hours) to do a 90-minute or 2-hour play. In dance, you often have only 4 hours of tech rehearsal for a 3-hour ballet,” Burke explained. After graduation, Jennifer recommended Burke for a project at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. From there, he began working with the choreographer Aszure Barton, with whom he continues to collaborate on projects for Alvin Ailey and other companies.

Burke says that he and Kate spend a lot of time talking about their lives as professional artists. “Having a partner in this has been wonderful,” he said. “And, of course, I love her.”—Melissa Rose ’18

(Top) Kate Cusack and Burke Brown at one of Kate's Zipper Jewelry shows. (Bottom) Bayerisches Staatsballett's production of "Adam is" by Aszure Barton, set and lighting design by Burke Brown. Photo by Wilfried Hösl.


Three times a week Yale Repertory Theatre Costume Project Coordinator Linda Kelley-Dodd (Staff) becomes Pinky Nails, or Pinky for short. Linda is a member of CT RollerGirls, a local roller derby league. Alex McNamara (Staff), who works in the YSD metal shop, is also a skater, known as Assault N. Pepper. CT RollerGirls is completely self-run, and all skaters have a role in its governance. Linda, who is currently co-chair of public relations, works to increase awareness about the sport and the league, to attract more spectators to competitions and more skaters to try-outs. 

When asked what she loves most about roller derby, Linda talks about the camaraderie and “the incredible bonding that happens when you compete alongside your teammates.” Getting ready for a game reminds Linda of the collaboration she sees in design teams at YSD, with everyone swapping ideas to reach a consensus. “You make all your plans before you even get out on the track, and then you have to know and trust your teammates because the game is constantly moving," she says. “Your teammates become your family, like sisters.” Linda is especially grateful for the friendship she has formed with Alex. “It’s great to have a teammate who is a co-worker, especially one I don’t get to see every day at YSD.”

 Like many skaters, Linda never played sports before trying roller derby five years ago. Adding to the challenges of the physically demanding sport, Linda is skating with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)—she was actually diagnosed because of a skating injury. She says, “I know that roller skating has helped me a lot in battling the disease and the exercise helps me stay healthy.” Both new and veteran skaters can have difficult days, “but it’s hard to be discouraged playing roller derby,” says Linda. She remembers one novice who a few months ago couldn’t even stand on her skates. She’s now a fast and fierce competitor, “a testament to what you can do if you persevere.”

(Top) Linda Kelley-Dodd (left) and Alex McNamara (right). Photo courtesy of Linda Kelley-Dodd. 

(Bottom) Alex McNamara (second from left) and Linda Kelley-Dodd (third from right) during introductions before the start of a recent game. Photo by Am Norgren.


Each year, YSD students lead the Yale Cabaret as artistic directors and managing directors. Below, the 2015-2016 leaders reflect on their time at YSD and their experiences at the Cabaret.

The leaders of the Yale Cabaret, 2015-2016 (left to right): David Bruin, Leora Morris, Julian Elijah Martinez, and Annie Middleton.

Julian Elijah Martinez ’16, Acting, Co-Artistic Director.  YSD was never part of a grand design, or ambitious project of mine. In fact, to this day I am still amazed that I am here, among my brilliant and inspiring peers. Yale happened because of a look from my mother. I had been a teacher and occasional actor, but when I lost my job at a high school, I found myself hanging out in my mother’s living room, playing escapist video games with swords and distressed damsels in need of rescuing. My mother—a woman who wakes up at 5:00 every morning, supervises early child care centers in four states, runs a yoga studio in her basement, and has a budding nutrition and alternative medicine business—gave me a look that made me rethink my plans. No words were exchanged, just a raised eyebrow that stoked a fire that was on the verge of going out. That day I decided to apply to Yale. YSD has fanned the flames that my mother rekindled three years ago. Every day I am humbled by the breadth of talent that the School recruits, and every day I am emboldened by the opportunity to stand amongst my colleagues. This year I helped lead the Cabaret during its 48th season. My mother instilled in me the importance of serving my community—being in a position of leadership at the Cabaret gave me an opportunity to do exactly that. The Cabaret is a home to so many, and I’m grateful to have been a part of its legacy. It taught me what it means to lead with the heart, and it’s a place where I’ve wept, raged, laughed, ate, slept, and praised. I’m profoundly thankful to YSD and the Cabaret community for every moment of it all.

Leora Morris ’16, Directing, Co-Artistic Director.  Coming from the independent theatre scene in Toronto, I was no stranger to scrappy, found spaces. I had directed and produced plays in alleyways, public parks, church basements, storefronts, and staircases. In that way, I felt immediately at home in the idiosyncratic Cabaret space. Nothing, however, prepared me for the unmistakable feeling of belonging I would experience. On my first night in New Haven before YSD orientation, I went to see the closing performance of the 2013 Summer Cabaret, a double bill directed by Dustin Wills ’14. Anh Le ’15, a theater management major, was at the box office and when I said I was an incoming directing student she hugged me and waved Dustin over so she could introduce us. I was seated next to Rose Bochansky ’15, a TD&P major, who told me that our waitress, Kate Knoll ’14, had designed the sets for the show I was about to see. As I drank my wine and watched the show, I thought “I’m already part of this.” Serving as a co-artistic director of the Cab has been a life-changing opportunity to hold this sacred space for our whole community, to create an open channel from the benevolent ghosts of Cabarets past, through this cohort of students, to the horizon of all the Cabs future. It has made me want to run a theatre (something I never thought I’d say). Because, despite the challenges of air conditioning, critters, and fires in the microwave, there is nothing quite like creating a place for a collection of artists you believe in, and the audiences that want to encounter them.

David Bruin ’16, Dramaturgy, Co-Artistic Director.  As I reflect on my year as a co-artistic director of the Yale Cabaret, I am especially proud of the inaugural Satellite Festival, which we produced in April. We came up with the idea for the festival while crafting our proposal to lead the Cab. We all agreed that some of the most inspiring works we had seen at YSD were sound and projection design theses, Drama 50s, and other genre-bending projects. We wanted to bring this type of work to the Cab. The idea for the festival was ours, but as the old adage goes, it took a village of YSD students, faculty, and staff to make it happen. Over three days, we performed 12 new works featuring over 40 artists compromised of students from YSD, the School of Art, Yale College, the Divinity School, and more. The line-up included: Do All Daddies Have Grey Suits?, a beautiful shadow puppet show by Aylin Tekiner (Special Research Fellow 2015-16) about the assassination of her father in Turkey; Shadi Ghaheri’s ’18 provocative dance theatre piece, which examined the possibilities for communication beyond language; and Wladimiro A. Woyno R.’s ’18 virtual reality piece titled Vignette of a Recollection, which was created for an audience of one and took place in Ming Cho Lee’s (Faculty) office. In between taking tickets and making sure no one got lost on their way to the Annex, I marveled at what we all had created that weekend. I loved that the festival introduced so many new artists to the Cab and its audience. It really speaks to the industry, ambition, and imagination of the YSD community that after 48 years, the Cab is still capable of surprising itself with innovative collaborations.

Annie Middleton ’16, Theater Management, Managing Director.  Yale Cabaret was one of the main reasons I was so eager to attend the theater management program at YSD. I was thrilled that there would be a place for artists to work on their passion projects. As someone with an artistic background, I wanted to be part of a program that would help me develop the skills and strategies to generate space for artists to present the work that was most meaningful to them and relevant to today’s theatre audiences. As managing director at the Cab, I was responsible for the operations of the theatre—development, marketing, finance, staffing, audience services, and even the kitchen. I collaborated with the artistic directors to execute the Cabaret’s mission, ensuring that the 18-show season aligned with our purpose and values. I developed, with David Bruin's ’16 help, an individual giving plan, and we were thrilled to raise more than $30,000 in donations for our season. I am proud of the work we did to provide students (both at YSD and beyond) an artistic home where they can truly take risks. My goal as a theater manager is to build relationships within the theatre’s community of artists and audience, and to embrace diverse, experimental, and provocative art. Following graduation, I will become the general manager of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York City. I can’t wait to jump in and become a collaborator!

ON & OFF YORK STREET is a publication of the Office of
Development and Alumni Affairs, Yale School of Drama

Deborah S. Berman, Director 
Alice Kenney, Editor
Maria Inês Marques, Contributing Editor
Leonard Sorcher, Editorial Consultant

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June 2016, Volume 4, Issue 2