Courtesy of Samuel Hollanshed
In the past three weeks, photography exhibitions in New Haven and New York City opened to celebrate the Yale Repertory Theatre’s 50th season.
“‘The Play’s the Thing’: 50 Years of Yale Repertory” is on display until Mar. 31 at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will show “Yale Rep at 50: Daring Artists, Bold Artists” through Apr. 8. New York exhibit co-curator Joanna Romberg DRA ’07, senior associate director of annual giving and special projects, said that especially for dramaturgy students, access to historical images that had previously been hard to find is both exciting and helpful.
Both exhibitions are free and open to the public.
“We’re creating a history on which to build,” said Deborah Berman, co-curator of the New York exhibition and director of development and alumni affairs at the Yale School of Drama and Yale Rep. “I think it’s not only important for the students who study here, but also for the field to have an accessible record of what we’re doing and how we’re promoting artistry.”
The two narrowed down 2,500 images to 78 iconic photos that compose the exhibition in New York City. Most of the photos in the school’s photo archives of productions before 2002, the year James Bundy DRA ’95 assumed the position of dean of the School of Drama and artistic director of the Repertory Theatre, were not digital. Donald Lowy DRA ’76, a member of the school’s board of advisors, spent a year cataloging, organizing and digitizing them. Another alumnus, Geoffrey Johnson DRA ’55, introduced Berman to Jaqueline Davis, executive director of the Performing Arts library.
The oldest photo is of a 1967 production of “We Bombed in New Haven,” and the most recent is a photo of Dianne Wiest in last season’s production of “Happy Days.” Other photos include notable actors such as Sigourney Weaver DRA ’74, Meryl Streep DRA ’75, Angela Basset ’80 DRA ’83 and Lupita Nyong’o DRA ’12.
“The decision to work with the Yale Repertory Theatre was an easy one,” said Caitlin Whittington, a graphic and exhibition designer at the Performing Arts Library who arranged the pieces in the space. “The Theatre has an amazing legacy for producing exceptional works and nurturing exceptionally talented students. We are very proud of the exhibition, and the response from the public has been very strong.”
The photos in the Performing Arts library are divided into four sections devoted to the work done under each of the Yale Rep’s previous and current artistic directors: Robert Brustein, Lloyd Richards, Stan Wojekowski and Bundy. The sections are titled “Revolution: The Founding of the Yale Rep,” “Pioneer: Groundbreaking Voices,” “Trailblazer: New Territory” and “The Rep Today: Innovation and Globalization,” respectively.
Though the exhibit at Haas is also presented chronologically and all the photos included are part of the show in New York City, the pieces there are divided into 14 shorter sections and include ephemera, like playbills, in addition to the photos. Lindsay King, the exhibition’s curator and the associate director for access and research services at the library, said it also showcases the Rep’s innovation over the past 50 years.
“The thing that I kept being struck by is that the Yale Rep over its 50 years has really focused on brand new work and new productions of classic things,” she said.
She explained that though most people throw playbills away, such items are vital to documenting the history of the Yale Rep. The library’s special collections include over 22 boxes of documents and paper goods related to the theater’s productions.
A smaller, 17-photograph exhibition, also titled “Yale Rep at 50: Daring Artists, Bold Artists,” ran Sep. 1 through Oct. 1, 2016 at the Study at Yale.