If you hear the term "Rough Magic," you might think mysticism with an edge of darkness, something unknown and unreal, like entering a silent woods that are foreign or strange to you. If that all sounds intriguing and you're game for theatrical adventures, then the Yale Summer Cabaret 2015 awaits you. Welcoming its 41st season, these plucky Yale School of Drama students do it all…one week they may be your waiter and the next the star of the production.
The chief brewers around the current caldron, think witches in the nicest possible sense, are Sara Holdren, Rachel Carpman, Flo Low and Emily Reeder. They wear hats, pointed or otherwise, as Artistic Director, Associate Artistic Director, Managing Director and Associate Managing Director in that order. From the quartet, with the aid of the actors and staff, flow the ideas that inform the summer season.
For Sara Holdren, these hot months at the intimate space at the bottom of the stairs at Yale's 217 Park Street in New Haven are her "last hurrah." Having just graduated from the Yale School of Drama a mere two and a half weeks ago, she finds it "amazing" to work with Rachel to create this intriguing quartet of offerings.
Personally she admits to being obsessed with Shakespeare but wanted to gift it with a radical adaptation and make it essentially a whole new work. "A Midsummer's Night Dream" was the choice of the team, with the challenge to make it "smart, clever and articulate," not to mention "surprising, enchanting and beautiful."
This reimagined version, "Midsummer," inaugurates the season. Shakespearian purists beware. The ensemble set a goal to "dive in and recreate a text and make it bottomless," a clear pun on Bottom, one of the chief characters. Amazingly they snuck in references and lines from 33 of 36 of the Bard's works, as a "happy accident," in a work that "hath no bottom." The cast is a huge part of the collaboration and will reappear in the future offerings.
In "Midsummer," a mischievious Pack (Shaunette Renee Wilson) is encouraged by Oberon (Niall Powderly), the King of the Fairies, to act like Cupid with a magic sleeping potion, rather than arrows, to cause romantic trouble for his Queen Titania (Melanie Field). Puck manages to cause no end of confusion in the woods and makes Hermia (Josephine Stewart) and Helena (Elizabeth Stahlmann) and causes their confused suitors Lysander (Christopher Ross-Ewart) and Demetrius (Leland Fowler) to switch partners. A naive Bottom (Andrej Visky) finds himself caught in the conflict and a physical war ensues that would put Mayweather and Pacquiao to shame.
A dream or a nightmare, you decide. "Midsummer" is credited to Will, with adaptation by Sara Holdren and Rachel Carpman and direction by Sara Holdren and will play until Sunday, June 21. A special one night spectacular "Moonlight Revels" is scheduled for Saturday, June 27.
Next up is "Love Holds a Lamp in This Little Room," shining a spotlight on the enigmatic and bewitching life of poet, artist and traveler Adah Isaacs Menken. Her sad and temptuous life, think Josephine Baker Meets Lady Gaga, will be explored. A Victorian woman of mixed race, she lived hard and fast and died too young, at only 33. The piece will explore her wealth of artistic integrity and her mark on the world, looking deeply into the soul of this "original American bad girl." Five actors will create her life's story from July 9-18 in this work conceived and directed by Leora Morris.
Kee-Yoon Nahm and Andrej Visky will adapt the Christopher Marlow epic "The Life and Death of Doctor Faustus" from July 23 to August 1., with Andrej Visky directing. This "gritty wonderful idea" surrounds an eternal graduate student who is unsatisfied with his life of television and fast food. When the devil enters, he makes him an offer he can't refuse. Puppets are introduced to enhance the themes of control and manipulation and heaven versus hell.
Completing the summer will be "Orlando" from August 6 - 15, a work by Virginia Wolf that has been adapted by Sarah Ruhl and will be directed by Sara Holdren. Roaming from Elizabethan to modern times, "Orlando" is described by the director as "strange, naughty and beautiful," the story of a young man who becomes a woman and "experiences a journey through time, countries and miraculous self-discovery." This is a tale of poetry, love and a constant searching.
Come early to performances Tuesday at 7 p.m. (June 16, July 14, July 28 and August 11), Wednesday at 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m. (with talk backs ), Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. (June 13, July 11, August 8) and 8 p.m. other Saturdays. For tickets ($25, Yale staff $20, students $14 or purchase a season pass), call the Yale Summer Cabaret, 217 Park Street, New Haven at 203-432-1566 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dinners by Chef Anna Belcher include such delicious choices as borscht with orange and carrot slaw $6, beef with chimichurri sauce, basmatii rice and vegetables $17 and strawberry nut tart with chocolate mousse $5. Doors open one and a half hours earlier.
Come to the "little room where they tell epic stories" and be caught up in the promise of "rough magic" that is delivered with skill, talent and imagination.
(above)Shaunette Renee Wilson as Puck,
(below) Melanie Field as Titania and Andrej Visky as Bottom
Photos by Andrea H. Berman