Jeremy O. Harris' 'Yell' Show Skewers Yale School Of Drama Experience
For many in the audience — judging from their gasps, shrieks or vocal exclamations — the play by the very hot-hot playwright Jeremy O. Harris that was part of the Carlotta Festival of New Plays held by the Yale School of Drama last week and this was the talk of the town.
Is that a burning bridge I smell?
Hell, yes. “Yell,” yes.
It was called “Yell: A ‘Documentary’ of My Time Here” and it was hardcore satire — and more — at its most shocking and at times it was jaw-dropping, hilarious, indulgent, fierce, beautiful, fun and daring. Theatrical excrement was one of the many stylized metaphors in the show and the n-word/slave analogy was also used abundantly. It challenged many aspects of Yale — whose name is not mentioned but is substituted by a “yell”/Yale of pain/frustration/rage. There were dance elements, film clips, an iPhone speech, choir singing, and other multi-discipline elements of the show
The piece, directed by Jecamiah M. Ybanez and featuring a cast of 17, skewered everything about Yale and the Yale School of Drama including his entrance interview, classes, teachers and — in a devastating ending — a conflict with a playwriting teacher (only initials are used, but easily imagined) .
The last moment of the play was his when the playwright — who scored big time off-Broadway this season with “Slave Play” and “Daddy” — appeared in person — along with dramaturge Michael Breslin and Amauta M.Firmino —to get the final words. It is the kind of theatrical experience people will be talking about for years to come. It will no doubt make some at the Yale School of Drama cringe — at the very least.
Wonder of President Peter Salovey will catch it.
The show will have its final performance in the festival — it’s in rep with two other plays by other students — on May 11 at 2 p.,m, and May 14 at 8 p.m.
In my upcoming profile on Harris in the June issue of the new VOICE magazine, Harris spoke at length about the difficulties during his three years at the Yale School off Drama , many of which are boldly depicted in “YELL.”
In a short excerpt from my much longer VOICE piece, Harris says of '“YELL.:”…..
“It’s a rage play about what it means to be in an integrated education system my entire life and the play asks what does that do the psychic life of a black queer person — and what’s that like here at the Yale School of Drama?”
In the article Harris says his Yale experience is a complicated one , compared to what he imagined it would be for a person with passions for art, literature, fashion, social media and music who didn’t want to be limited to one discipline.
“I thought the artist I articulated that I wanted to be when I came here — which was a political artist — would be super nurtured here,” he says. While he says allowance for that kind of work was often “great and amazing,’ he had doubts if he received ‘the tools to facilitate inter-disciplinary conversations’ for the kinds of works he wants to do, He felt limited to break through to Yale’s other “academic silos” but still managed to find his own connections and colleagues at the schools of art, architecture, divinity and music.
“It’s been a really interesting push and pull because, like most institutions, they can’t completely say no to any student with enough ambition and will. But the emotional toll that it takes of getting the thing you need or want is a mess.”
“So much of the pedagogy here is centered on a production model that mimics the production model of Yale Rep. and if your work doesn’t work inside that model, then your’e sort of left out in the cold. Someone said to me this is not the’ Yale School of Multi-Media,’ which is just insane because all the world is working that way now.”
The full article — which also includes his thoughts on working with Tarell Alvin McCraney — will be out later this month.