If Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library is a temple for knowledge, its performing arts scene is a Mecca for theater. Whether you have always loved theater, enjoy a night at a show once in a while, or simply want to discover your cultural side at college, you’ve come to the right place.
While students at similarly-sized universities put on a couple of plays each semester, at Yale there is an average of four to five plays every single weekend. I have always loved going to plays, and when I discovered the scene at Yale, I was hooked. I attend three to four undergraduate plays a month, and I am constantly being blown away.
My favorite place to watch shows at Yale is Nick Chapel in the basement of Trumbull College. The theater seats about 60 people in a dozen or so steeply-sloping rows from which the audience looks down at the stage. The setting is so intimate that you almost feel you are sitting in the play itself. I’ve been to plays there ranging from a moving adaptation of “Antigone” to an impressive student-written piece called “Birthmarks.” The feeling of the space can change radically from week to week — from a sun-drenched beach in a freshman show to a dank prison in a serious drama — with new props and a fresh paint job over the layers of previous colors.
I tend to prefer these smaller undergraduate plays to the Yale Repertory Theatre or Yale Cabaret shows. My taste also happens to be easier on my wallet — undergraduate shows cost between two and six dollars, whereas the Yale Rep charges up to $25. While the Rep and Cabaret do have more elaborate sets, in my opinion the acting in the undergraduate shows is stronger. The performing arts spaces on campus range from theatres like Nick Chapel, to multipurpose rooms that double as basketball courts in the college basements, to sleek new spaces like Off-Broadway next to Stiles.
Whether you want to act, direct or simply watch, the best way to find out about theater at Yale is through the weekly Theater Bulletin e-mail. Tina Sessions (firstname.lastname@example.org) will coordinate the theater bulletin this semester. In the bulletin you’ll find announcements for shows for the upcoming weekends and the person to contact for reservations.
The reservation system is the ingenious method by which you can ensure yourself a seat at a play without showing up early to wait in line. Because undergraduate productions are so popular and seats are limited, reservations sometimes fill up a couple of days before the show. Your best bet is to reserve tickets as soon as possible. Just e-mail the contact person listed on the posters around campus, in the theater bulletin e-mail, or on the painted eight-foot-high wooden signs hung up outside the post office. The person will then usually send you a confirmation. If there aren’t any reservations left, put yourself on the waiting list and you’ll often get in.
So for all you new freshmen, theater buffs and virgin theatergoers alike, the Yale undergraduate productions are not to be missed. Whether you become the next New York Times theater critic or just find a fun way to spend a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, Yale theater is a reminder of why Yale is an amazing place to be.
Jocelyn Lippert is a junior in Timothy Dwight College and a Yale Daily News staff reporter.