PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Deborah Yates

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Deborah Yates She has one of the most prominent roles of the 1999-2000 New York theatre season, and her character has no real name. She's Deborah Yates and she's Contact's The Girl in the Yellow Dress, the object of troubled and terpsichorally-challenged ad exec Boyd Gaines' desires. The hailed Susan Stroman-John Weidman "dance play" recently reopened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre after a sold-out engagement at the small Mitzi E. Newhouse, making Yates officially a Broadway star. The Texas native and former Rockette spoke to Playbill On-Line about the most rewarding experience of her career and her new-found liking for a certain hue.
Boyd Gaines and Deborah Yates in Contact.
Boyd Gaines and Deborah Yates in Contact. (Photo by Photo by Paul Kolnik)

Playbill On-Line: So, did you wear a lot of yellow before Contact?
Deborah Yates: [Laughs] I have definitely embraced the color yellow now. I wear a lot more. I never did before. It's not a color I was comfortable with. It's a hard color to wear. Now, of course, everything I buy is yellow.

PBOL: Susan Stroman has told the story a number of times in the press of how you stood out in auditions, but I've never heard about the experience from your point of view.
DY: It was an audition full of incredibly talented people, so I didn't walk in and think `This role is mine.' I did have the experience of it being amazingly fun. From the moment I did the dancing, it just sort of fit. I had the best time; it was joyful and easy and intriguing, to me -- the choreography. It was one of the most fun times I've had in my life.

PBOL: How many times did you audition.
DY: I want to say three.

PBOL: What's your perspective on the character? Is she real or in Boyd Gaines' mind?
DY: Well, there's one character who is real and one character who is not. The girl who comes in near the end is a very real character -- she's Boyd Gaines' downstairs neighbor. And I think what's happens is The Girl in the Yellow Dress is a fantasy he has made up in his mind; it all happens in his mind when he's hung himself. In a sense, it's all projected onto the girl downstairs. He's taken that girl's image and made her the girl in yellow, in this whole fantasy section.

PBOL: In the fantasy, what is The Girl in Yellow Dress about? What is she looking for?
DY: For me, in the development of the character, I had to figure out the reasons for her to be there. Even a fantasy has to have a motivation. That is her environment, that's where she rules the roost. She's the lioness. And he is freaked when he first comes in because he's new, he's different. And he is intriguing to her because he's not like everybody else there. First of all, he doesn't know how to dance. He doesn't dress the same. Over the course of the evening, she comes to see that there's something importantly different about him. He has courage. He's an escape for her, to a different kind of life. I think they are drawn together because they're sort of the opposite of each other. PBOL: Is this a tough dancing assignment?
DY: It's very physically demanding, for everyone in the cast, Boyd included. But, on the other hand, it's so much fun that you really don't mind. I really look forward to coming to work.

PBOL: Has Boyd become a better dancer over the course of the run?
DY: Absolutely. In fact, recently, we've had to work on keeping from being too good. There are points in the story where he really needs to not be good. He needs to be bumbling. It's so easy for him now that we've had to go back and say, "Don't forget. You can make this look too simple."