Bursts of multicolored words line the paper-covered walls, contrasting the ordered normality of the rest of the room. A large wooden desk covered with neat stacks of papers faces the door, and a leather sofa crouches against one wall near a large first-floor window.
James Bundy DRA ’95, the new dean of the Yale Drama School and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre, is surrounded by the Drama School’s new “strategic vision,” whose initial stages of development are cryptically revealed in the phrases scrawled across his office walls.
Bundy seems at home in his office, despite having begun his term as both dean and Yale Repertory Theatre artistic director just over two months ago. His crisp, white button-down shirt and unobtrusive paisley tie fail to mask the excitement that comes into his voice when he speaks about his new job and about the Yale Rep’s upcoming season.
“I feel great,” Bundy said. “It’s a terrifically exciting adventure and I don’t know how it’s all going to work out, but the commitment is not to know how it’s all going to work out.”
Bundy, who will serve a five-year term as dean, has taken Stan Wojewodski Jr.’s place within the Drama School’s confines. And though his first year has only just begun, he has already been sent on a mission of sorts.
“We’re working on a strategic plan right now, and President [Richard] Levin has charged us with creating that plan this year,” Bundy said.
He added that some of the initial planning has already taken place in collaboration with Drama School students and staff.
“Theater is the most collaborative art form, and the Yale School of Drama is the most collaborative theater in the U.S., so it follows that [this strategic planning] will be highly collaborative,” he said.
A major part of his vision involves identifying a concrete set of values that he believes the Drama School stands for, which includes professionalism, collaboration, diversity, discovery and community.
“We’ve begun to identify those as a faculty and a school, and I think the students know what they are and I think they’re vital to our future,” Bundy said.
But his primary focus seems to be the Yale Rep’s new season, which begins this Friday. To Bundy, it is the Rep that acts as the Drama School’s window to the world.
“Our single biggest interaction with the Yale community and the New Haven community and the world is through the Yale Rep, and participation in this season at the Yale Rep will offer a phenomenal opportunity,” he said.
The season consists of six different pieces and begins with “Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella,” which will weave the three well-known storylines together in an attempt to create a completely new piece.
“What I love about this season is that it has a commitment to the kind of poetry that you can only experience in theater,” Bundy said. “The stories of the plays are extremely accessible and evocative, and at the same time, all of them are coded in the kind of transformation that makes the theater an incredible art form.”
Bundy said he hopes the season will present a wealth of new theatrical material.
“I think in the work, there are lots of terrific new ideas, things that have never been seen before,” he said. “There are six plays in this season and I can guarantee that no one will feel they have seen anything like any of them.”
And in his 20 or so years of professional theater experience, he seems to have successfully discovered how to draw audiences into the theater. During his time as artistic director for Great Lakes Theater Festival, attendance grew by about 30 percent, and the theater expanded both its audience base and its educational programming.
Bundy, who was primarily raised in New York, said this commitment to theater came slowly, without a single, defining moment.
“My parents took me to plays — I loved them. I participated in plays in school — I loved them,” he said. “By the time I had graduated from college, I knew I couldn’t do anything else.”