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YSD Playwrights Honored

Tarell Alvin McCraney ’07 (Faculty), who recently won both the PEN Award for an American playwright in mid-career and an Oscar for Moonlight, the film based on his play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, is far from the only YSD playwright having an honor-filled few months.

Lynn Nottage ’89 (Former Faculty) received her second Pulitzer Prize for Sweat, which had sold-out productions at Arena Stage and The Public Theater and opened on Broadway in March.

Genne Murphy ’18 was the 2016 winner of the Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers for her play Giantess. The prize is given at the Lilly Awards, which honor the work of women in theatre. “By elevating early-career women writers, the Leah Ryan Fund is doing its part to bridge the industry gender gap,” says Genne. “The board members are wonderful theatre artists, friends and family of the late Leah Ryan. I feel so honored to receive their support and encouragement.” As a part of the award, the play was workshopped last summer with support from New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College and had a reading at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in January. Jessi Hill ’07 directed both the workshop and the reading, and Aubie Merrylees ’16 acted in the reading.

In April, the Playwrights Center (PWC) announced that Tori Sampson ’17 will be one of its 2017–18 Jerome Fellows and will receive a cash award and play development funds. She will spend the next year in residence at PWC in Minneapolis. Tori is currently working on a commission for Berkeley Rep and is the Kennedy Centers 2017 Paula Vogel Playwright.

Jiréh Breon Holder ’16 received the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award for his play, Too Heavy for Your Pocket, which is set in rural Tennessee during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and was inspired by the stories of Jiréh’s grandmother, a Freedom Rider. The play received a reading at Roundabout Underground as a part of the award. Too Heavy for Your Pocket was also the winner of the 2017 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, and in February the play was produced at the Alliance Theatre. Margot Bordelon ’13 directed the production and Reid Thompson ’14 designed the sets. YSD alumni at Alliance also include Emika Abe ’16, who is the management associate, and Leora Morris ’16, who is Alliance’s Yale Directing Fellow.

Amy Herzog ’07, YC ’00 was one of ten finalists for the 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Mary Jane, which had its premiere at Yale Rep in April. Jen Silverman’s The Moors, which premiered at the Rep last season, was also a finalist.

Kate Tarker ’14 is the recipient of the 2017 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, given to an emerging playwright by the Vineyard Theatre. The award includes a cash prize and artistic development support. “It’s a year of nurturing from the Vineyard,” says Kate. “It makes me feel at home in the New York theatre world.” Kate’s play Laura and the Sea was presented during a reading series at the Vineyard last fall, and was a part of the 2016 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.

Laura and the Sea was also included on the 2016 Kilroys List, which is comprised of the 32 unproduced plays by female and trans playwrights that receive the most nominations. Kate calls the list “a great reminder to the artists, that they are heard and valued, and to the industry, that this is work they really should be considering and programming.” The 2016 List also included six other plays by Yale School of Drama alumni: The Art of Gaman by Dipika Guha ’11, Cost of Living by Martyna Majok ’12, Cygnus by Susan Soon He Stanton ’10, Wild Goose Dreams by Hansol Jung ’14, Eat and You Belong to Us by MJ Kaufman ’13, and Roz and Ray by Karen Hartman ’97, YC ’92. The Kilroy List committee includes Zakiyyah Alexander ’02 and Meg Miroshnik ’11. “We wanted to give theatre-makers who have consistently said they have trouble finding plays by women a vetted resource—so there will never be an excuse to ignore parity on our stages,” explains Zakiyyah. “My time at YSD helped me see the need for gender parity, and it’s easy to see how vital it is when we look at the work our fellow alumni continue to do.”

Top: Opening night of  “Too Heavy for Your Pocket” by Jiréh Breon Holder ’16 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. (Left to right): Leora Morris ’16, Jiréh, Margot Bordelon ’13,Reid Thompson ’14, and Emika Abe ’16. Bottom: Kate Tarker ’14. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Celebrating Women in Theatre

The League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) honored Linda Cho ’98 and Lileana Blain-Cruz ’12 at its 2017 Awards Celebration at the TimesCenter on March 31. “ This award gives me a chance to pay homage to the women who have forged a path and supported me personally and to women collectively in theatre,” says Linda. “It has opened my eyes to the importance of paying their generosity forward. As progressive as theatre may be, there are still gender inequalities in representation and in how certain issues like family life are addressed.” Lileana agrees: “I think LPTW’s mission is pretty remarkable in its simplicity and importance—it’s about bringing visibility to women artists and producers in order to create more opportunities—this feels significant in a field where women are still underrepresented in leadership positions.”

Linda received the Ruth Morley Design Award, given annually to an outstanding female theatre designer and named for the costume designer Ruth Morley, who served on the LPTW Board of Directors. The award was presented by Darko Tresnjak, who directed A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, for which Linda won a Tony. Linda also designed the costumes for Darko’s production of Anastasia, which is currently on Broadway. Linda has a full docket of work in the coming year. “My upcoming projects are pieces that are thoughtful reflections on our current political climate,” says Linda. “One takes place in North Korea, another deals with Native American history, a musical tackles American immigration, and an opera examines world religion.”

Lileana received the Josephine Abady Award, which honors a woman theatre artist who has created work of cultural diversity. The award is named for Josephine R. Abady, a stage and artistic director and leader in the nonprofit theatre movement. Lileana’s work in the last year has included productions of Suzan-Lori Parks’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s War, Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One, Lucas Hnath’s Red Speedo, and Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Lileana always assembles a diverse creative team (lighting designer Yi Zhao ’12 and costume designer Dede M. Ayite ’11 are frequent collaborators), ensuring that the production benefits from a variety of perspectives. Lileana’s current and upcoming projects include The Bluest Eye at the Guthrie; a new play by Dominique Morisseau, Pipeline, which is opening at Lincoln Center Theatre this month; and Actually, a new play by Anna Ziegler YC ’01, which will be at Williamstown Theatre Festival in August.

Top: Lileana Blain-Cruz 12 with the playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at the awards ceremony. Bottom: Linda Cho 98 receiving the Ruth Morley Design Award from director Darko Tresnjak. Photos by Sandi Durell.

An Annenberg for Ato Blankson-Wood

Ato Blankson-Wood ’15 has received a 2017 Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, which provides early-career artists with two years of financial support and professional development opportunities. Ato is an actor, singer, and dancer, and plans to use the fellowship funds to take advantage of a number of opportunities for advancing his career and improving his craft, including trips to Los Angeles for pilot season, a songwriting retreat, on-camera lessons, and perhaps most excitingly, a visit to Ghana’s National Theater to study storytelling traditions in his parents’ native country.

YSD instilled an artistic curiosity in me that the Annenberg will allow me to further investigate, says Ato. I hope to continue to evolve throughout my career and I know this fellowship will allow me to deepen my craft and broaden my ideas about what Im capable of as an artist.  

In selecting Ato for the fellowship, the Leonore Annenberg Foundation recognized his talent in “deftly blending poetry, storytelling, and music in performance” and cited his 2016 critically acclaimed breakout performance in the musical The Total Bent at The Public Theater. Ato has also recently been cast in Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It for Netflix.

A number of YSD alumni have been recipients of the Annenberg Fellowship, including Miriam A. Hyman ’12 in 2016, Sarah Sokolovic ’11 and Molly Bernard ’13 in 2014, and Bryce Pinkham ’08 and Austin Durant ’10 in 2012.

Photo by David Noles.

Top Techs

Ben Clark ’17 and Michael Hsu ’17 were honored at the 2017 USITT Young Designers & Technicians Awards. Ben received the KM Fabrics, Inc. Technical Production Award, and Michael received the Bernhard R. Works, Frederick A. Buerki Scenic Technology Award. The YD&T Awards bring recognition and financial support to designers and technicians at the onset of their careers. “I am truly honored to be the recipient of the 2017 USITT Golden Hammer award, and I am so thankful for the support of my faculty and family,” says Michael. “This award reminds me that the work I do as a theater technician is vitally important to the art I do every day.” Ben gratefully acknowledged his wife, Diana, his parents, classmates, the faculty and staff of YSD, and “everyone who proves the importance of our work through the professionalism and excellence they bring to the job.”

Michael Hsu ’17 (left) and Ben Clark ’17 at the 2017 USITT Young Designers & Technicians Awards. Photo by Diana Clark.

Arthur Nacht Receives Warfel Award

Arthur Nacht ’06 was the recipient of the 2016–17 Phyllis Warfel Award for Outstanding Service, which honors those who have contributed to the well-being of the Yale School of Drama community. The award is named for Phyllis Warfel ’55, who edited the Drama Alumni Newsletter for 15 years. “It was a great honor to be recognized by a place I care so much about,” says Arthur. He and his wife, Merle, have been patrons of Yale Rep for nearly 40 years.

In 2003, after a long career in corporate finance, Arthur decided to apply to the School. “I was very lucky to be able to combine at YSD two sets of knowledge and interest,” says Arthur. “The Theater Management department allowed me to put together my exposure to the great work being done in the modern theatre with my professional experience in financial management of a scientific instrument company.” After graduation Arthur founded Nacht Theatre Consulting, which focuses on the financial and strategic management of not-for-profit theatres.

Arthur has continued his dedication to the School and the Rep. “Since his graduation, I doubt there is any YSD production he and Merle have not seen,” James Bundy ’95 (Dean) remarked when announcing the award at the 2016 Alumni Holiday Party. Arthur is currently the president of the Yale Summer Cabaret board, on which he has served since 2004. “I am very proud of the Summer Cabaret,” says Arthur. “It is a huge opportunity for students to run their own theatre for a whole season. I understand this—I was managing director of the 2004 Summer Cab.”

In 2011 he joined the YSD Board of Advisors, where he co-chairs the Student Life Committee and works with department chairs to coordinate mentorship for graduating students. “I know that the period of transition after graduation sometimes goes smoothly but sometimes there are bumps. I’ve been delighted to be working on the mentoring initiative with Sonja Berggren [fellow board member]. It’s a last gift the School offers students, a final assistance getting out in the field.”

Victoria Nolan (Deputy Dean), Merle Nacht, Arthur Nacht ’06, and James Bundy ’95 (Dean) with the 2016 –17 Warfel Award.


Act II: Gregory Wallace Returns to YSD

Gregory Wallace ’87 joined the faculty of the Acting department in January. Until last fall, he was the head of the graduate acting program at the University of California, San Diego, and for more than a decade he was a member of the acting company at American Conservatory Theater and served on the faculty of their MFA program. At both San Diego and ACT, he made a point of reaching out to actors of color throughout the country. Gregory has 35 years of experience acting and directing in both new and classic works at regional, Off-Broadway, and Broadway theatres and in film and television. “My time at YSD definitely impacted the opportunities that came my way and what I was able to make of them,” says Gregory. “I feel like I’m coming back now to return the favor and to offer an account of what the possibilities are when you make it your goal to reach for a higher standard.

At YSD, Gregory is teaching first-year acting and the second semester of third-year acting, when students are preparing for the actors’ showcase. “Working with actors always comes back to opening them up to the vastness within them as human beings,” says Gregory. “I also have what I would call a fairly intense interest in human energy. Discovering how to reliably use this energy is why developing technique is so important. Most of my work with actors is designed to get them out of their own way and on to the business of serving the text.”

In his announcement of the appointment, James Bundy ’95 (Dean) added: “In time we will also recruit him to the Yale Rep stage. There you’ll see the tremendous range of his talent, which I have personally witnessed in many visits to the Geary Theater in San Francisco.”

Photo by David Muller.

Celebrating 50 Years of YRT

On January 10, members and friends of the YSD/YRT community gathered at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center for the opening of Yale Rep at 50: Daring Artists, Bold Choices, an exhibition of photographs from more than 70 iconic productions from every era of Yale Rep’s history.

The exhibition was curated by Deborah S. Berman and the staff of the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs with the support of board members Don Lowy ’76 and Tracy Chutorian Semler YC ’86 and second-year dramaturg Chad Kinsman ’18A complementary exhibition curated by arts librarian Lindsay King was on view at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, featuring costumes, program notes, and other ephemera in addition to production photos.

Top: Gennar Savastano, Seamus Mulcahy ’12, and Chantal Rodriguez (Assistant Dean).
Middle: Carol Waaser ’70 and Michael Yeargan ’73 (Faculty).
Bottom: The attendees at the exhibition reception.

The exhibition was featured in Playbill’s “Theatre Quiz: Look Who’s Playing in Rep” for the month of February:

Courtesy of Playbill.

The exhibitions were just a small part of the year-long 50th Anniversary celebration. In October members of the community gathered for a number of events, including a panel discussion with theatre-makers from throughout the Rep’s history. Here is a link to the highlights video from that discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cc07nffSPc0.

A Working Group for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group (EDIWG) was created in April 2016 following a community-wide meeting where over 100 YSD members—including faculty, staff, and students—engaged in a discussion about issues concerning equity, diversity, and inclusion at the Yale School of Drama. The overarching mission of the group is to support and promote the development of a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive YSD/YRT community. Chantal Rodriguez (Assistant Dean) facilitates the meetings with a team of two rotating co-facilitators from within the group.

Here is EDIWGs report of its work thus far:

The EDIWG membership consists of the four YSD deans and a mix of students, staff, and faculty members. The group holds a two-hour meeting each month, in addition to its ongoing work online. In recognition of the work involved, and as a measure of equitability, student members are paid work study hours for time spent in EDIWG meetings. In February 2017 the EDIWG opened its meetings to the YSD community. As a way of encouraging participation and lowering barriers to attendance, YSD rehearsals and work study calls begin later on the afternoons of the EDIWG meetings. Central to the group’s process is the formation of smaller action groups which meet outside of the monthly meeting to work on specific projects and/or ideas. Action group meetings are also open to the YSD community, and the EDIWG is developing an open membership model for the 2017­­­–18 academic year.

In the 2016–17 academic year, the EDIWG has coordinated two community gathering events and has also launched an initiative to name several spaces in our buildings in honor of members of the YSD/YRT community, living and deceased, who represent a diverse spectrum of identity, lived experience, and contributions to the School, the Rep, and the field. Additionally, action groups are currently working on curriculum discussions and recommendations, parent/family concerns, and highlighting our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion on the YSD/YRT websites.

Students at a recent EDIWG meeting. (Left to right): Aneesha Kudtarkar ’19, Shadi Ghaheri 18, and Francesca Fernandez McKenzie 18. Photo by Gwyneth Muller ’20, SOM ’20.

Team York Street Runs for Refugees

In February, members of the YSD community joined a record crowd of almost 2,500 runners in the 10th Annual Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) Run for Refugees in East Rock Park. The “Team York Street” members, who raised $3,670 for IRIS, were Jenn Alzona, Amy Boratko ’06, Daniel Cress, Caitlin Griffin, Emalie Mayo, Jason Najjoum ’18, SOM ’18, Steven Padla, Chantal Rodriguez, and Melissa Rose ’18.

Caitlin said, “I wanted to run in this 5K for a lot of reasons, including my pride in New Haven as a sanctuary city, and the inspirational work IRIS does to acclimate immigrants to their new lives.”

The run and fundraiser were opportunities to learn more about refugee resettlement, something that Emalie says she knew little about before hearing Chris George, executive director of IRIS speak. “President Trump’s executive orders put all of IRIS’s wonderful work in jeopardy,” says Emalie. “A grandmother, mother, and daughter slotted to arrive five days after the executive order were turned away at the last minute. It broke my heart. Seeing that the race was sold out and receiving donations from all over the country restored my faith in humanity.”

Team York Street plans to run again next year, and also to participate in other fundraising opportunities. “I would love to keep Team York Street active and growing in the local 5K circuit,” says Caitlin. “And one of my friends is going to organize a Pride Week 5K this fall. Stay tuned!”

Team York Street at the IRIS Run for Refugees. (Standing, left to right): Jenn Alzona (Staff), Emalie Mayo (Staff), Chantal Rodriguez (Assistant Dean), Daniel Cress (Staff), Melissa Rose ’18, and Amy Boratko ’06 (Staff). (Kneeling): Caitlin Griffin (Staff) and Steven Padla (Staff). Photo by Steven Mihalek.


Rolland Rising

Stephanie Rolland ’15, artistic administrator at Baltimore’s Center Stage, is a member of TCG’s inaugural cohort of the Rising Leaders of Color (RLC) program, which launched last June. The RLC program is a part of TCG’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative (EDII) and complements the SPARK Leadership Program. Each year, TCG identifies a group of early-career theatre professionals in the area of the city where the TCG conference is taking place—the members of 2016–17 group are all located in the DC Metro area; the 2017–18 group will be based in Portland, OR. “This program has given me a network that is both personally and professionally beneficial and rejuvenating,” says Stephanie. “After leaving YSD, I was hungry for a local community that was as inspiring and driven, and I found it in my RLC cohort. An intangible and unplanned benefit of RLC is that we are also friends.”

The program provides professional development, personal growth, and networking opportunities throughout the year, and a chance to engage in dialogue and community-building. “We are in the midst of a seminar series about personal core values and strategic plans and applying those concepts to both our career trajectories and our everyday lives,” says Stephanie. She offers high praise for RLC’s part in EDII: “Often diversity recruitment discussions center on the purported lack of qualified candidates. By highlighting an already existing pool of qualified candidates of diverse backgrounds in major cities across the country, TCG propels the discussion past the supposed lack of candidates to equitable recruitment practices and what actions organizations are actually taking to attract the diverse pool that already exists.”

The 2016–17 Rising Leaders of Color. (Back row, left to right): Paige Hernandez (B-Fly Entertainment), Bryan Joseph Lee (Round House Theatre), Stephanie Rolland ’15 (Center Stage), Kristen Jackson (Woolly Mammoth), Annalisa Dias (The Welders), Ronee Penoi (The Welders). (Front row, left to right): Ouida Maedel (Woolly Mammoth), Shayla Roland (Ford’s Theatre), Sadiqua Iman (Earth Pearl Collective), Amelia Acosta Powell (Arena Stage).

Chiara Klein—Emcee at Ms. Senior America

Chiara Klein ’17, SOM ’17, founder and artistic director of MaineStage Shakespeare, a summer theatre company in Kennebunk, Maine, has an unexpected outlet for her theatre-bug—on April 2, 2017, she co-emceed the Ms. New York Senior America pageant with her grandmother, Marleen Schuss, who has been involved in the pageant since 1990, serving as State Administrator since 2006. Ethel Bennett, the founder of the New York pageant and a friend of Marleen’s, brought her onto the team after her husband died, and the community has been a huge part of her life ever since.

Senior America is a community of women over 60 who “join together in the celebration of the Age of Elegance.” In addition to the annual pageant, which determines who will go onto the national Ms. Senior America pageant in Atlantic City, the New York group serves as a community for past and present contestants and their families, hosting events throughout the year through its Cameo Club. Chiara says, “The idea is that life can begin anew at any age.”

Chiara first became involved with the pageant when she was still in high school and Marleen brought her on as a producer. Over the years her responsibilities have grown from choosing opening numbers to orchestrating and directing the many moving parts of putting on a production, and for the last few years, emceeing the event alongside her grandmother. Chiara says it can be motivating to see the contestants working on their (often new-found) talents, whether tap dancing or belly dancing, and to listen to their unique perspectives: “It’s always an inspiration—I know plenty of young people who don’t have the joie de vivre that these women do. They completely break the stereotype of what a senior citizen is and what it means to age.”

YSD alumnae over 60 are encouraged to participate! Go to: http://newyorksenioramerica.org/

Marleen Schuss (left) and her granddaughter, Chiara Klein ’17, SOM ’17, are co-emcees of the Ms. New York Senior America Pageant.

Remembering Sue Ann Gilfillan Converse

Actress Sue Ann Gilfillan Converse ’55 died on March 12, 2017 in New York City at the age of 86. Sue Ann and her husband of 54 years, producer Converse (Tony) Converse YC ’57, were long-time members of the Board of Advisors, and generous philanthropists to the School. “Yale was hugely important in our lives, and so many of our friends date from our time at Yale,” says Tony. In addition to Tony, Sue Ann is survived by their sons, Anthony and Alexander, and four grandchildren.

Sue Ann acted in numerous films and television series, including Partners in Crime (2000), The Larry Sanders Show, Married with Children, and the soap opera Secret Storm (1954–74). She will be best remembered as a founding member of the summer resident company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, where she performed in 36 plays over 11 summers in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, many directed by the late Nikos Psacharopoulos ’54 (Former Faculty).

“Williamstown was hugely important to both of us,” says Tony. “It was where Sue Ann did her biggest roles. There was a great community in the company—we all came up together through Yale and Williamstown.” In addition to title roles in Jean Giraudoux’s Ondine (1955), George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan (1956), and Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi in Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker (1955, 1979), her Williamstown Theatre Festival credits include Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (1956), Beatrice in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge (1957), Mrs. Webb in Wilder’s Our Town (1959), and Monica Reed in Noël Coward’s Present Laughter (1960).

Sue Ann Gilfillan Converse ’55 in Ondine (1955) at Williamstown Theatre Festival.

YSD classmate Geoffrey Johnson ’55 remembers Sue Ann:

“Sue Ann and I were close classmates and cherished friends. I have so many memories of our friendship after we left New Haven to seek our fame and fortune. Along with her devoted husband, Tony, and her two children, Anthony and Alexander, we often spent holidays in Manhattan together as well as weekends in their lovely Vermont home. Both on and off stage, Sue Ann was always one of the most outstanding and talented members of the acting program, which she laughingly labelled the “Connie Welch Group” after our acting coach. She was striking, whether the production was  Peer Gynt” or “Ondine.” She had it all! I shall miss her.”

Jane Kaczmarek returns to Long Day’s Journey Into Night

This spring, Jane Kaczmarek ’82 performed the role of Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Jane had played Mary while at YSD—“I remember our director, J. Michael Sparough ’82, telling me back then, ‘Jane, there is nothing you can do that is more interesting than what Eugene O’Neill has written.’ It was the best note I ever got.” While preparing for that YSD production, Jane and her classmates rehearsed at the Monte Cristo Cottage, the O’Neill family home where the play is based.

Now, returning to the character of Mary, Jane appreciates the 36 years of life experience she has had since her first shot at the role. This time around, there’s “no old age make-up, no sense-memory plunge into the imagination, no longing to romanticize suffering,” says Jane. “I think the gift of aging, and the anguish too, comes from the awareness of loss. I have a real attachment to Mary Tyrone. Maybe being raised Catholic, maybe being from the Midwest, but sharing her journey every night was cathartic.”

She was joined on stage by Alfred Molina, a frequent collaborator of Jane’s since 2015 when they worked together on a BBC recording Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge. They performed together in Tom Holloway’s And No More Shall We Part at Williamstown Theatre Festival and Fathers and Sons at L.A. Theatre Works. “Although we aren’t a couple off stage, I’ve told Fred he is the only man I will ever be in love with on stage ever again.” In taking up Long Day’s Journey, Jane says, “We were both intrigued by the vitality of the love story between James and Mary. We agreed it was a key part of the story that was rarely explored and were eager to try.”

What’s up next for Jane? “I’ll be back in Williamstown this summer doing Jen Silverman’s The Roommate directed by Mike Donahue ’08, sharing the stage with a woman this time—the wonderful S. Epatha Merkerson.” Another collaboration with Molina is also in the works—“My agent is begging for it to be a comedy.”

Top: Jane Kaczmarek ’82 and Alfred Molina in the Geffen Playhouse production of “Long Day's Journey Into Night.” Photo by Chris Whitaker.
Bottom: Jane Kaczmarek and John Lloyd ’82 in the 1981 Drama School production of “Long Day's Journey Into Night.”  Photo by Ted Janger, courtesy of Yale University Library Manuscripts & Archives.


Yana Biryukova ’17
Projection Designer

Ao Li ’18
Set Designer

Carolina Ortiz Herrera ’17
Lighting Designer

Yana Biryukova ’17, Projection Designer
I grew up watching exciting controversial theatre in Moscow, and I always wanted to be a part of it. I used to work primarily in video and installation art; they are my languages and became my way into the theatrical world. I think of projection design as another actor on stage that needs to learn to live in the world of the play and always be more than just a background image, more than just a “screensaver.”

YSD has taught me a lot of things, but more than anything I’ve learned about the excitement and importance of true collaboration. I think this really came through in Imogen Says Nothing, when we spent many hours and days working through the text with the director and the design team.

We’re creating a new world from scratch, a world that is very much like ours—but also different, like a mirror. I think theatre can change a person, because it offers this mirror of our society, of the world we live in today. On stage we see an environment we might recognize, but at an unfamiliar angle, perhaps, sometimes, at an angle that we don’t necessarily want to see. It’s not always attractive, but it can help us understand ourselves better.

Ao Li ’18, Set Designer
What brought me to theatre is probably the limits of language. I often find that just words or image or music alone is not enough to communicate a complex situation or emotion. YSD is an artistic home where the exchange of dynamics between performers and spectators makes the process of theatre-making an immense joy. The biggest thing I would say that I have learned at YSD is the articulation of ideas. There is a fine line between designing to the needs of the production and creating just out of design desire. I have been questioned and challenged at every moment by colleagues, teachers, and friends to reflect constantly—What is it? What does it mean? Why? How? As a set designer, I work with the director, the playwright, and the dramaturg early on to create a space for the play and a framework for other artists’ work. When we are creating, the group exploration that reveals many discoveries is the main motivation. “Art, like morality,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “consists of drawing the line somewhere.” How lucky am I that I get to make something with a loving group of people that tells a story and draws a line.”

Carolina Ortiz Herrera ’17, Lighting Designer
Despite the normal uncertain feelings that arise when closing a chapter in my life, I certainly feel excited and confident that my three years at YSD have polished my strengths as a designer who strives for meaningful and creative collaborations in theatre. This year, I designed Seven Guitars directed by Timothy Douglas ’86 at the Rep, and the opportunity to work at this professional level allowed me to witness my growth as a designer.

The collectiveness and immediacy of the theatrical experience is the reason I fell in love with the art of telling stories through light. Being part of a community that works with such passion, devotion, and tenacity has been a privilege and has empowered me every day to accomplish what sometimes seems impossible. The spirit of improving our process as theatre-makers has awakened this community to question our practices towards a more inclusive and diverse approach, and this has been key in making me feel welcomed as an immigrant whose differences are valued and respected. Every late night and every tear is worth it in a collective experience like this one!


Commencement 2017: Playwrights Tori Sampson 17, Sarah Mantell 17, and Miranda Rose Hall 17. Photo by Ao Li 18.

YSD in Spring! Photo by Arthur Nacht ’05.

FOLKS, YSD’s affinity group for Black students, invited Reg Cathey ’81, who appeared in End Game at Long Wharf Theatre in January, to speak with students. (Top row, left to right): Arturo Soria ’19, Tori Sampson ’17, Lauren E. Banks ’17, Reg Cathey ’81, Amandla Jahava ’19, Sean Boyce Johnson ’18, Gwyneth Muller ’20, SOM ’20, Jakeem Powell ’19, Erron Crawford ’19, Jaime Totti ’19, and Armando Huipe ’19. (Bottom row, left to right): Mika H. Eubanks ’19, Moses Ingram ’19, Kineta Kunutu ’19, Chiara Klein ’17, SOM ’17, Olivia Plath ’19, and Caitlin Crombleholme ’19.

The Long Term Service Awards honors faculty and staff for their dedication to YSD/YRT. Deputy Dean Victoria Nolan (left) and Dean James Bundy ’95 (right) with the 2017 honorees: (left to right) Shane Quinn (5 years), Ellen Lange (20 years), Clarissa Youngberg (20 years), Sharon Reinhart (15 years), and Deborah Bloch (10 years). Not pictured: Janice Muirhead (5 years).

Commencement 2017: Lauren E. Banks ’17 received the 2017 Carol Finch Dye Award. Carol's brother, Charles, reestablished the award last year. He and members of his family attended graduation and got a picture with Lauren and her family. (Left to right): Joanne Finch, Jayne Finch, Jayne’s son Thayer Abu-Hijleh, Lauren E. Banks, Charles Finch, Renee Bynum Banks, Sherrod Banks, Albertina Smith Banks, and Lula Glover, with Alexander Banks kneeling in front.

Lee Savage 05 (Faculty), Michael Yeargan 73 (Faculty), and Anne Tofflemire (Faculty) with Shakespeare Academy at Stratford Artistic Director Brian McManamon 06 at the opening of his production of Loves Labours Lost.

Many members of the class of 2017 attended a lunch hosted by the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, including (foreground, left to right): Gavin Whitehead, Yana Biryukova, and Ben Pfister. (Middle): Rebekah Heusel, Steven C. Koernig, Paula R. Clarkson, Davina Moss, and Chiara Klein. (Background): Michael Commendatore, Sydney Lemmon, Miranda Rose Hall, Elizabeth Green, Ian Scot, George Hampe, and Ricardo Dávila. Photo by Emily Reeder.

The Theater Management department got together to honor Pat Egan, who has taught in Theater Management since 2004 and is retiring this year. (Left to right): Joan Channick ’89 (Associate Dean), Deborah Berman (Director of Development and Alumni Affairs), Rosalie Stemer (Faculty), Pat Egan (Faculty), Shane Hudson ’14, Emalie Mayo (Staff), and Flo Low ’17. Photo by Sylvia Xiaomeng Zhang ’18.

In April, the Women Voices in Theatre affininty group hosted YSD’s first annual Women Voices in Theatre Festival, which presented plays by women. Left: Juliana Canfield ’17 and Sean Boyce Johnson ’18 in a staged reading of A Rat’s Mass by Adrienne Kennedy, directed by Jeremy O. Harris ’19. Middle: Amandla Jahava ’19 in Broken Melodies by Shadi Ghaheri ’18 and Majkin Holmquist ’18. Right: Sydney Lemmon ’17 in JOAN, created by Jesse Rasmussen ’17, Cole McCarty ’10, and Alex O’Neill YC ’20 with the women of the Acting class of 2017.

Yale School of Drama

Office of Development and Alumni Affairs

P.O. Box 208244

222 York Street

New Haven, CT 06520-8325

ON & OFF YORK STREET is a publication of the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, Yale School of Drama

Deborah S. Berman, Director & Senior Editor

Catherine Sheehy, Editor

Alice Kenney, Editor

Leonard Sorcher, Editorial Consultant


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June 2017, Volume 5, Issue 1