Yale Rep Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary


 Rocco Landesman at Yale Rep celebration (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Rocco Landesman at Yale Rep celebration (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Leave it to Robert Brustein, the outspoken founding director of Yale Repertory Theater, to raise tough questions at a celebration of the theater’s 50th anniversary this weekend.

Now 89, Mr. Brustein helped transform the university’s School of Drama from a graduate program turning out academics into a full-fledged professional school that, working in association with Yale Rep (as the theater is known), produced luminaries like the Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep and the Tony Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang.

Gathering onstage on Friday afternoon alongside the dancer-actor Carmen de Lavallade, the playwright Sarah Ruhl and other Yale Rep figures, past and present, Mr. Brustein reminisced about the early days of the theater. But later that night, at a celebratory banquet, he worried out loud about whether nonprofit theaters were straying from their original mission.

“It just seems to be going downhill, mostly because of the lack of funding,” said Mr. Brustein, who, after leaving Yale in 1979, went on to found the American Repertory Theater at Harvard. “[The theaters] are becoming more commercial and now look more toward Broadway — which is the exact opposite of what their original intention was.” He exempted Yale Rep from this trend. 

The Yale event was largely an exercise in nostalgia, bringing back to campus leading figures from the tenures of Yale Rep’s four artistic directors and drama school deans. Scott Davenport Richards represented his father, Lloyd Richards, who led the theater and school from 1979 to 1991, and Stan Wojewodski Jr., who filled those roles from 1991 to 2002, also attended.