"Open End Theater" Gets Middle School Students To Confront Painful, Real-life Choices--Tomorrow

Open End Theater, based at Yale University, will perform a powerful interactive drama in the gymnasium of Nathan Hale Middle School, 480 Townsend Avenue on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 9 a.m. Members of the media are invited to observe, photograph – unobtrusively, if possible – and cover the event.

The play is an intense, realistic story about a high school girl who becomes pregnant and has to decide what to do. The play has no predetermined ending. When the characters reach an impasse, the action stops. A moderator steps forward, leading the eighth-grade audience in a discussion of the issues and options. The audience votes on the ending they think would be best, and the performance resumes along those lines.

As in life, all the alternative endings are fraught with heartache and long-term consequences for the characters.

Launched last year with funding from Yale University, Open End Theater was created and coordinated by retired Yale English literature professor Thomas Greene. This year, the project received a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

One reason the program has a strong impact on its audience is because it is genuinely open-ended. “We’re not going into the schools to preach or indoctrinate,” Professor Greene says. “We want the audience to walk out arguing about what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Mr. Greene, Frederick Clifford Ford Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, undertook this project as a way of “reinventing himself” in his retirement. “After devoting my life to teaching and research about 16th century literature, I felt I needed to pay more attention to my role as a citizen in the community. This gives me great satisfaction.”

Cast members are Yale undergraduates and students from local high schools. Charlene Andrade, founder of Youth Theater New Haven, directs the company; Jim Luse, lecturer in Theater Studies at Yale and former director of education at Long Wharf Theater, wrote the script. Richard Squeri is the discussion moderator.

Other performance dates, all at 9 a.m.

Tuesday, December 2, West Hills Middle School, 103 Hallock Avenue.

Tuesday, December 9, school to be determined.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325