You’re in college now — a parallel universe in which pizza is a food group, beer pong a sport, and “MTV News” a legitimate source of investigative reporting.
While I have no qualms about ice cream for breakfast and breakfast at 3 p.m., it’s important to maintain a shred of dignity in certain respects. There’s no reason to become a cultural disaster during your four years in New Haven.
Whether you know it or not, New Haven is bursting at the seams with renowned cultural institutions spanning the spectrum of visual and performing arts. The Yale University Art Gallery is not only the oldest university art museum in North America, it also houses one of the best-respected collections. Any Yalie can breeze through canvases by Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh — just a few of the gallery’s 85,000 works — even in the time between classes.
Do you like James Bond? How about tea and crumpets? Stroll across Chapel Street from the gallery and you’ll be faced with the Yale Center for British Art, the largest collection of British artifacts outside the United Kingdom. The British Art Center houses pieces ranging from painting to sculpture and everything in between, inclduing drawings, prints and rare books. As at the Yale University Art Gallery, they’re all housed in a building designed by world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn.
Confess: at sometime in your life, you wanted to put on a pair of boots, one of those little helmets with mosquito netting, and a pair of binoculars and go hunt for dinosaur bones. You may have settled for economics now, but you can still satisfy your Indiana Jones fantasies at the Peabody Museum of Natural History.
The museum’s endearingly quiet, vaguely dusty atmosphere will bring you right back to elementary school field trips. When you walk into the Great Hall of Dinosaurs and see the massive skeletons, you’ll get that same little-kid “wow!” feeling. Grab a “dino dog” at the hot dog stand outside and you’ll be ready to make the easy 10-minute trek back to the safety of the dorm, having earned your cultural bonus points for the day.
Of course, maybe museums aren’t your thing. Maybe too many boring class trips during high school have you running in fear from tour guides, floor plans and those little plaques below paintings. Fortunately, the New Haven area boasts a notable collection of theatrical and musical venues in addition to its visual art offerings.
The Long Wharf Theater, though a bit of a hike from campus, is an internationally-acclaimed regional theater with a reputation for staging Broadway-bound plays in an intimate setting.
Equally renowned but located near the heart of campus is the Yale Repertory Theatre. The Yale Rep stages professional as well as Yale School of Drama productions and has been recognized with Drama Desk Awards, Outer Critics’ Circle Awards, and Tony Awards, among many others. Productions range from world premieres of new plays to revivals of classic works and are consistently some of the best shows that New Haven has to offer.
But there’s more. If the Yale Rep and the Long Wharf Theater fail to fulfill your entertainment needs, the Shubert Theater and the Yale Cabaret offer additional pleasant distractions from campus life. Not only has the Shubert premiered Broadway shows like “South Pacific,” “My Fair Lady,” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” it also currently hosts performing arts events covering a wide range of dance, opera, cabaret and theater.
The Yale Cabaret is a different sort of experience, located in a basement on Park Street and featuring the fruits of the Yale School of Drama’s labor. The Yale Cabaret serves up a light dinner and graduate student production in an intimate black-box theater. The show changes weekly and offers fairly inexpensive access to some of the school’s up-and-coming talent.
These are just a few of New Haven’s highlights, but in reality there are too many killer cultural opportunities in and around Yale to spell out in just one article.
So take my advice: some Saturday in November, after a 3 p.m. breakfast of ice cream and pizza, grab a couple of friends and drag them around New Haven instead of watching “Real World” reruns all afternoon. You won’t regret it.