After a year and a half of online performances, Yale Dramat returns to in-person theatrical production with the premiere of an original coming-of-age play
This weekend, the Yale University Dramatic Association will present “Not About Kyle” – its first in-person theatrical production this fall – as part of its fall 2021 Ex.
According to playwright Ann Zhang ’24, the play addresses feelings of confusion, guilt and acceptance of “coming of age”, specifically addressing the experience of “being in your own head” and using fiction to forge its identity. Performances will be on October 7 at 8 p.m., October 8 at 8 p.m. and two shows on October 9 at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Yale Repertory Theater.
“[‘Not About Kyle’] is a play that tells about being in your own head and feeling isolated even with others, ”said Zhang. “It’s also about the basic realization that people don’t just exist in their heads. They are fully fleshed out, nuanced, and simply unable to fit into a stereotypical little box. All of this seems particularly relevant now with the pandemic. “
The show – which was also co-produced by Zhang – traces the story of Luce, a high school student who writes a book about a boy named Kyle. But as the title suggests, the play isn’t about Kyle. Rather, it is an exploration of Luce’s journey as she grapples with common adolescent issues related to friendship, romance, isolation, self-expression and to self-discovery.
Zhang began writing the play during his senior year of high school, and partly based Luce’s main character “free space” on her own experience. After finishing the screenplay last year, Zhang assembled the production team and submitted his proposal to Drama in May. As soon as the piece was approved to be part of Dramat’s 2021 Fall Ex, the team met regularly on Zoom to organize logistics over the summer.
Upon returning to campus in early September, the production team set up auditions and set up the premiere in less than a month.
“It was a very fast production and we rehearsed on a very tight schedule,” said director Samantha Fisher ’24. “But we have all been so excited about a revival of theater in person and have done a lot because of everyone’s enthusiasm.”
According to Soojin Park ’25, who plays Luce, rehearsal times differed for actors depending on their roles. As the main character, Park rehearsed four times a week for four hours a day – all within University health guidelines. The cast couldn’t practice in the same space for over an hour and had to take “COVID breaks” in between to ventilate the room. However, Park noted that these restrictions weren’t “too awkward” as they gave team members more time to “log in” and get to know each other.
Other safety guidelines included mandatory masking for the audience and performers on stage, despite the small cast of nine.
“I joked with the crew that it’s a great year for people who can only perform with the top half of their face, which our actors can’t,” said Zhang. “So I’m a little sad that the audience can’t fully appreciate their wonderful work. “
Still, the team shared a sense of excitement and optimism. Fisher said she felt “extremely grateful” for the chance to “personally” present the play to the audience and “get its emotional message across.” Park also noted that the actors were successful in “bonding” with each other and “keeping the energy on stage”, regardless of some drawbacks associated with the health restrictions.
Park said that thanks to this collaborative working environment and the close relationships between the members, the team produced a “very human and honest” play in less than a month.
“It’s a very personal piece for a lot of people because it focuses on discovering your sexuality and forging your own identity and touches on a lot of very specific experiences that people have,” Fisher said. “But at the same time, it also feels really universal: even if you don’t have these character-specific issues, we all struggle to grow up and understand who we are. So what I would like audiences to take away from it is the feeling that we are all connected and that we are all going through it together. “
“Not About Kyle” will last about an hour without an intermission. Tickets must be booked online through the Dramat website.