THE CABARET LEADERSHIP: JULIAN ELIJAH MARTINEZ, LEORA MORRIS,
ANNIE MIDDLETON AND DAVID BRUIN
Imagine mounting a new play every weekend, complete with designer sets and costumes, a unique script of lines, with creativity and the joy of creation every step of the way. Now imagine doing it again and again, for eighteen times in a season. That’s exactly the Herculean task that the members in charge are doing for the 48th season of the Yale Cabaret.
Way back in 1968, a group of students from the Yale School of Drama approached the dean of the school, Robert Brustein, with a challenging proposal. The year before the innovative and cutting edge Yale Repertory Theatre had opened and the students wanted a site of their own, a space for their work, a place to take risks and test new ideas. Brustein, whom they affectionately called Bob, responded to their call and gave them a space that had previously been a coffee house and a fraternity.
That seemingly modest beginning in a “cellar” located at 217 Park Avenue in New Haven has blossomed into a site of imagination and creativity that is deemed “artistically successful” by its current fearless leaders. With Annie Middleton as theater manager, who oversees the budget, marketing and administration,and a triumvirate of co-directors Leora Morris, David Bruin and Julian Elijah Martinez at the helm, the Yale Cabaret is poised to take off like a Cape Canaveral rocket.
On Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., audiences are invited to dine at 6:30 p.m. from the eclectic menu selected by Chef Anna Belcher who sidestepped a career in law to take charge of the kitchen, working to coordinate the food choices with inspiration from the theatrical offerings. If time doesn’t permit a full meal, come a little early for a drink and dessert. You’ll likely be seated with strangers who will soon become new friends. Some likely food choices are a small plate of summer rolls with hoisin sauce ($6), angel hair pasta with clams in ginger broth ($8) or grilled swordfish and sautéed kale ($17). Desserts include options like creme brûlée ($5).
The new artistic team was officially selected in April by the Yale Cabaret board and announced in August, after submitting written proposals with a mission statement and their theatrical plans for the year. The process includes a lengthy interview and Leora, David and Julian applied as a team. They are already off and running with their selections 1, 2 and 3 and will soon decide on numbers 4-10. If there is a theme, it is diversity, as they comb through all the proposals that have been submitted: established as well as new plays, collaborations and performance pieces. The season will include a “very different, exciting, surprising variety of 18 shows.”
The team wanted to inspire a “constant conversation" with the audience, thus they include a talk back after Friday night performances. The stage is reconfigured every week to fit the new show and don’t be surprised if your waiter one week will show up as the star on stage the next.
Starting off the new season is “We Are All Here,” with David Bruin as co-director and co-adapter with Jireh Breon Holder. A contemporary riff of Shakespeare’s "Winter’s Tale,” it’s a reinterpretation of the Charles Mee work “Wintertime.” A romantic comedy with “outbursts of dance and song," it will be presented by a big cast of ten. Featuring a trio of couples in a place they all love, the action soon goes haywire. David and Jireh worked through the text, adding and subtracting plot lines, discovering humor and heartfelt sentiment, complete with huge theatrical gestures. Fortunately the playwright Charles Mee welcomes this re-invention of his work.
Next up September 24-26 is a work with the intriguing title “Knives in Hens” directed by Jesse Rasmussen, who is making her cabaret debut. Set in rural times, it revolves around a plowman and his wife and their growing relationship with the town miller. As the wife acquires the language of a man’s world, she gains great empowerment and equally strong destructive tendencies. A crime occurs and “love turns dark and poetic, taut, tight and focused.”
Completing the first trio of performances on October 8-10 is “I’m With You in Rockland,” a collaborative effort with students from the Schools of Art, Music and Drama, directed by Kevin Hourigan in his debut effort. Starting with a line of poetry by Allen Ginsberg and inspired by his life and work, it includes songs and art and images that involve all the disciplines in “a kaleidoscopic montage for our contemporary moment.”
Throughout the eighteen weeks of offerings, eleven artistic associates in addition to the four principals will hold group discussions as they review the submitted proposals. They will decide what is doable and exciting to discover “the pulse of the School of Drama’s cravings.” The goal is to provide the community that includes alumnae, faculty, students and the general public with stimulating theater combined with fine dining to achieve a greater artistic landscape.
For reservations ($20, Yale faculty $15, students $12 or multiple passes like a 9 ticket flex pass $117, faculty $99, student $81), call the Yale Cabaret, 217 Park Street, New Haven at 203-432-1566 or online at www.yalecabaret.org.
The “constant conversation” ball is clearly now in your court.