James Bundy DRA ’95 said he fears that cursory discussion of plays will lead to “the end of theater.” But he said he sees Yale as a place where people can discuss theater on a higher level.
Bundy, the newly appointed dean of the Yale School of Drama, spoke at a Master’s Tea in Jonathan Edwards College Thursday to an audience of about 20 people. Bundy described his disdain for some contemporary approaches to theater, and the experiences in his life that led him to pursue this type of career.
According to Bundy, the role of the Drama School is “to train leaders of the future American theater [and] to be a driver of what it means to make great theater in the 20th century.”
Bundy said he privileges more artistic, avant-garde works regardless of theater attendance. He said he is committed to “noble artistic sentiment [and] important artists.”
Bundy added that the Drama School’s annual budget of $10 million encourages this artistic freedom.
He also described the advantages the Drama School has in terms of Yale’s commitment to liberal education.
“Theater is the most collaborative art form,” Bundy said. “We have complete vertical integration.”
According to Bundy, the “hit mentality” of American theater is a current trend that could contribute to “the end of theater.”
“People want to go to the thing that is the thing to buy. People are interested in the sense of unveiling — the sense of mystery,” Bundy said. “The sense of unfolding is important — but the whodunit is embedded in the form, how the mystery is made manifest.”
Bundy said he thinks theatergoers should not discuss what they liked and disliked, but rather the form and theory of the play.
He cited the debate about whether to use modern or traditional costuming in Shakespeare plays as an example of the type of discussion he hopes for in his audience. He said directors deliberate over whether Shakespeare preferred Elizabethan dress in itself or because it was chic in the 17th century.
Bundy comes to Yale from his position as artistic director of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio.
He also worked with Cornerstone Theater, a company that produces shows in rural American towns. Some of these small-town citizens participated in the plays, with duties ranging from acting to tech to stage production.
Students interested in drama comprised a large part of the audience yesterday.
“[Bundy] is very accomplished in the theater world,” said Andy Sandberg ’05, who said interests in acting and directing led him to see Bundy speak.
Keith Townsend DRA ’04, a student in the sound design program, said he wanted to hear what Bundy had to say to the larger Yale community.
“The Drama School is really excited and optimistic [about Bundy],” Townsend said.