Tonight the Yale Summer Cabaret resumed with Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia, formerly known as Southwest Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, between the Years 1884-1915, directed by Jessica Holt, which runs until July 26. It will be followed by Will Eno’s Middletown, directed by Luke Harlan. The first is, at first, a “laugh riot,” Harlan says, that gradually becomes a very moving experience that boldly examines questions of race in America. In returning, the Cab space has been partially reconfigured from the set-up of the first two plays of the season, with the main difference being the placement of the audience: both in and around the action. Actors may be seated at tables with the viewers.
Then the space will be completely changed for Middletown, involving a cast of 11, with the action set up in a different location and most likely using a higher stage platform than has generally been used at the Cab. After Middletown’s run from 31 July to 10 August, including a special 40th Anniversary celebration dinner by invitation, the final slot in the season is occupied by a festival of short plays.
Both Co-Artistic Directors Holt and Harlan have considerable previous experience with festivals of short plays and are enthusiastic about what a shorter playing time affords. “Short plays are often more challenging,” Harlan said, “less safe, and more willing to move beyond boundaries.” A full-length play requires a complete investment in an idea, one able to be fleshed out into a full show. Short plays can make their points more quickly, with greater concentration, and sometimes greater risks.
The intention all along has been to invite plays from alums of the Yale School of Drama. Everyone Holt and Harlan approached was interested. In two cases, with plays by A. Rey Pamatmat and MJ Kaufman, the plays were written expressly for the festival. Others are plays that pre-existed, and one play, by Hansol Jung, is an excerpt from a musical that had been proposed for last year’s term time Cabaret.
Here are the plays, none of which has been previously staged:
Rolin Jones, much lauded for his mash-up of Shakespeare and The Beatles in the Yale Rep show, These! Paper! Bullets!, provides three short plays, each about 10 minutes: Ron Bobby Had Too Big a Heart; Sovereignty; The Mercury and the Magic.
Hansol Jung, whose play Cardboard Piano was at the Carlotta Festival here in the spring, offers an excerpt from a musical, The Undesirables.
MJ Kaufman, winner of the 2013 ASCAP Cole Porter Prize in Playwriting, whose Sagittarius Ponderosa was featured in Carlotta 2013, presents Your Living Room is Full of Ghosts, which is set in an IKEA.
Mary Laws, whose Bird Fire Fly played in Carlotta 2014, returns with All Saints.
A. Rey Pamatmat, recipient of the 2012-13 Hodder Fellowship in Playwriting at Princeton, wrote We Have Cookies specifically for the Festival.
Kate Tarker, author of Thunderbodies, which appeared in Carlotta 2014, offers M.A.H. (A Museum Play).
The plays will be presented in two sets of three plays each, Series A on Thursday, August 14, Series B on Friday, August 15, and both Series on Saturday and Sunday, to close out the Summer Cabaret Season with a marathon of short plays. The plays inclusive to each Series TBA later.
According to Harlan, the playwrights were asked to submit plays less than 30 minutes in length, though one or two may be a bit longer. The entire running time for a Series is 90-100 minutes. Harlan says the majority of the plays are comedies, though comedies that risk violence and, in some cases, look at unpleasant aspects of America. The playwrights were also informed about the actors available for the Festival. There will be 8 actors, all of whom will have been seen during the course of the Summer Season. Two of the short plays feature larger casts, while some require 3 or 4 actors, and there are a few 2 handers as well.
Holt and Harlan will trade-off directing duties, so that each will be involved more or less to the same degree in staging the plays. The strong collaboration that has been shown so far in this year’s Summer Cabaret should be even more on view in this final effort.
Regulars of the Cab know that a surprisingly effective theatrical experience can be provided by short plays, and with the varied casts, playwrights, and running times, the Summer Short Festival offers an excellent opportunity to see the kinds of things the Cab does best.
With only three opportunities to see each Series, spread over four days, secure your tickets early for the Summer Shorts Festival. The end of summer is sooner than you think.
Yale Summer Cabaret 40th Anniversary Season Summer Shorts Festival, August 14-17, 2014
For more information: Summercabaret.org