Mike Mussina would be merrily pitching for the Boston Red Sox. But the team simply failed to press hard enough. Instead, George Steinbrenner’s solicitous Yankee club called Mussina at home, flew out to meet him with a red carpet in tow and did everything short of bend down on its collective knee and beg. Mussina’s pinstripes are a reminder that when it comes to the art of recruitment, money and prestige alone are not enough to lure a big name.
Yale could learn a lot from baseball in its 10-month-old search for the new dean of the Yale School of Drama. After having publically swung and missed in an effort to recruit Trinity Repertory Theater Director Oskar Eustis to replace Stan Wojewodski Jr. as head of the 100-year-old school, Yale now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of convincing second and possibly third runners-up to come to New Haven.
The Drama school dean appointment is seen as one of the plums in regional theater and theater education because it includes artistic oversight of the Tony-award winning Yale Repertory Theater. Only four people have held the combination dean-artistic director slot since Robert Brustein, now of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, founded the theater 35 years ago to accompany the drama school.
But many are now calling the prestige of the dual position into doubt because of the appointment’s drawn out delay. One candidate, JoAnne Akalaitis asked the News: “Where is the leadership? Who are the leaders? Why aren’t there 17 people beating down the doors to be at Yale?” Good questions indeed. And the answers aside, there is no doubt it is time for Yale to start calling people to bang down the doors.
Carey Perloff is the drama school search committee’s newest focus, and Yale should spare no effort in persuading her to take the post. Artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco since 1992, and the recipient of the prestigious 1996 Jujamcyn Theaters Award, she is unquestionably a qualified candidate. Perloff recently oversaw the triumphant reopening of the Geary Theater in San Francisco following its $27.5 million restoration. Prior to taking a post at the ACT, she was artistic director of the Classic Stage Company in New York and served on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University for seven years.
The University now finds itself in terra incognita: administrators must now show that it is worthy of her. Given her colleagues’ potentially embarrassing knowledge of Yale’s pursuit, Perloff may feel uneasy about her candidacy. Yale President Richard Levin needs to add a personal touch to the search — like Steinbrenner, Levin needs to bring the urgency of the search right to Perloff’s door. There can be no hint of hubris this late in the game.
The drama school is one of world’s most well-regarded and Yale Repertory Theater is its renown performance partner. The candidates know that. But neither’s past, it seems, has been enough to lure top candidates, so Yale must appeal to a candidate’s future here with an aggressive and creative recruitment effort.
After 10 months, it’s time to play hardball.