Passion by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine - Yale University Senior Thesis 2010 - Photo by Lauren Bremen    
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View the PASSION gallery.
Photos by Lauren Bremen
by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine
directed by Gary Jaffe

JANUARY 21 - 23, 2010
at the Whitney Theatre
a Yale Theatre Studies Senior Thesis for Emily Jenda

In Passion, an officer finds himself torn between his married lover Clara and the obsessive love of the sickly Fosca. Passion is a “problem play,” known for its rhapsodic music but not for being a traditional crowd-pleaser. However, I saw in the musical a directness of emotional expression which I felt, if captured honestly on stage, could shake a Yale audience to its core. To accomplish this, I emphasized in rehearsals the life-or-death consequences of the events in the characters’ lives and kep the stage intimate, spare and raw: a three-quarter thrust with only the most necessary furniture, a revelaed orchestra, and an evocative floor pattern which could accommodate the play’s various settings while intensifying the relentless, high-stakes needs of the characters. Our “sold-out” run generated both standing ovations and hours of debate afterward.

Much of Passion is told through letter exchanges. To keep the tension hot despite the distance, I allowed actors writing to each other to exist in the same space, provided they followed certain rules. The person in the act of writing could not look at his or her scene partner, while the recipient could watch the writer, as if visualizing him.

Featuring: Emily Jenda, Danielle Frimer, Miles Jacoby (both pictured left), Jeremy Lloyd, Will Turner, Noah Bokat-Lindell, Jake Meyer, Mike Pacer, Alexander Caron, Helen McCreary, and Melinda Paul.

Scenic Design by Sophia Janowitz; Lighting Design by Lauren Bremen; Costume Design by Claire Seaver; Sound Design by Taylour Chang


View a montage of scenes from Passion


"The spontaneity of Jenda’s subtle voice, with soft crescendos that quickly evaporate, underlines the ephemeral nature of the lovers’ happiness, as minutes later Giorgio reveals he has to leave on assignment. [...] While both performances are exceedingly memorable, the true highlight of the show is the neurotic, sick and disillusioned Fosca, played by Danielle Frimer ’10. [...] Frimer’s searing screams near the top of the show preface her remarkably organic portrayal of the pathetic character. Her face communicates Fosca’s rickety nature, with awkward smiles and doe-like eyes swiftly giving way to pinched expressions. What makes her performance outstanding, however, is her singing. She is able to actively make her voice sound faintly unstable and rough, her notes faltering, her volume rising seemingly without her control. She comes across as so naturally deranged, and so hopelessly in love with Giorgio, that several audience members exhaled empathetic sighs when she fell to the ground midway through the musical."

Amir Sharif,
Yale Daily News


After attending a performance of Sondheim’s Passion at the Whitney Humanities Center in January, I wrote an email to members of the cast and production team, saying in part:

“I spoke with many of you yesterday afternoon after the matinée but want to reinforce my appreciation for your hard work on-stage, off-stage and in the pit. The piece held together beautifully -- which is no mean feat with a work as occasionally “out there” as Passion. The afternoon was one of those moments theatergoers wait for -- a performance when you learn about the piece, about the performers, and about yourself.”

Director Gary Jaffe’s achievement was to frame Fosca’s solitary and lonely quest for love and meaning within a world of spare, angled light, false shadows and mistaken impressions. Every element of the production contributed to our understanding of Fosca’s isolation and desperation. As a result, this story of extreme passion resonated both realistically and in the heightened realm of metaphor.

Daniel Egan
Shen Curriculum for Musical Theater at Yale University

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