History of Yale School of Drama

Yale University founded a Department of Drama in the School of Fine Arts in 1924 through the generosity of Edward S. Harkness, B.A. 1897. In 1925, while the University Theatre was under construction, the first class of students was enrolled. George Pierce Baker, the foremost teacher of playwriting in America, joined the faculty to serve as the first chairman of the department, and the first Master of Fine Arts in Drama was conferred in 1931.

In 1955, by vote of the Yale Corporation, the department was organized as a separate professional school, Yale School of Drama, offering the degrees of Master of Fine Arts, Doctor of Fine Arts, and Certificate in Drama (for those students who had completed the three-year program without having the normally prerequisite bachelor’s degree).

History of Yale Repertory Theatre

In 1966, under the leadership of Dean Robert Brustein, Yale Repertory Theatre was formed as part of Yale School of Drama, establishing a complementary relationship between conservatory and professional practice.

A hallmark of Robert Brustein’s artistic leadership of Yale Repertory Theatre from 1966 to 1979 was his insistence on a resident company of artists. Brustein’s dream of a permanent repertory company became an inspiration to the emerging field of nonprofit theatre. The model of Brustein’s programming choices, emphasizing the production of new plays and classics of the world theatre in vivid and inventive interpretations, has remained the centerpiece of the work of Yale Repertory Theatre.

During the tenure of Lloyd Richards, dean and artistic director from 1979 to 1991, the theatre increased its emphasis on the production of new plays. Athol Fugard, Lee Blessing, and August Wilson were among the playwrights who premiered their work at Yale Rep during Richards’s leadership. Yale Rep was one of the first resident theatres to regularly transfer serious work to the commercial theatre, developing a model of professional producing that changed the course of new play development in the American theatre.

Stan Wojewodski, Jr., dean and artistic director from 1991 to 2002, was notable for his commitment to the individual artist. Wojewodski made longterm commitments to Suzan-Lori Parks, Len Jenkin, and Ralph Lemon, as well as numerous actors, directors, and performance artists.

James Bundy, appointed dean and artistic director in 2002, has continued Yale Rep’s remarkable legacy of producing new plays. Under his tenure, the Rep has devoted major resources to the creation of new work, and, through the establishment of the Yale Center for New Theatre in 2008, formalized its commitment to this mission. Renamed the Binger Center for New Theatre in 2012, the center is an artist-driven initiative that devotes major resources to the commissioning, development, and production of new plays and musicals at Yale Rep and across the country. To date, Yale Rep has supported the work of more than thirty commissioned artists.  More information on the Binger Center for New Theatre can be found at yalerep.org/center

In just under a half-century, Yale Repertory Theatre has produced well over 100 premieres, including two Pulitzer Prize winners and four other nominated finalists. Eleven Yale Rep productions have advanced to Broadway, and plays first produced at Yale Rep have been presented at many theatres across the country. Yale Rep productions have garnered more than forty Tony Award® nominations and eight Tony Awards; the theatre itself is also the recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.