Zoe Berg

The David Geffen School of Drama, which is currently housed in nearly a dozen buildings across the Yale campus, is seeking to build a new building to bring much of the school under one roof.  

Currently, students at the Drama School take classes and host performances in 10 buildings on the Yale campus which lack full accessibility, are not fully modernized and present challenges to collaborative work, according to Sarah Cain MFA ’22. But the school is in the process of raising the funds to create a new building that would bring most of the institution together under one roof. Exact plans for the new building’s location and the future of the school’s existing buildings are yet to be finalized.

“As we near the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Drama in 1925 and the 125th anniversary of the Dramat, this is an opportunity, literally, to lay a foundation for the next century of theater-making at Yale,” Dean of the Drama School James Bundy wrote in an email to the News. “A facility centering the well-being and artistry of students, faculty, staff, guest artists and audiences, and flexible enough to respond to their creativity for generations to come, will be one worthy of Yale’s field leadership.”

The University’s recently announced $7 billion capital campaign, For Humanity, will devote an unknown amount of the funds raised towards the development of this building, according to Deborah Berman, the director of development and alumni affairs at the school of drama. 

Bundy said that the Drama School is nearing its fundraising goal, and hopes to pass it by the end of the year. Once it has raised the necessary funds, the school plans to hire an architect and begin working on the building, with the goal of opening it by 2026. He added that the funding of this facility is one of the “major goals” within the capital campaign. 

“There will surely be other challenges along the way, but the priority now is to secure the gifts needed to greenlight the project,” Bundy wrote. 

Currently, buildings with drama classrooms stretch across York and Chapel streets. The “historic home” of the Drama School — the University Theater — is located at 222 York St., while other buildings include the Yale Repertory Theatre at the corner of Chapel and York streets and the Yale Cabaret on Park Street. The sprawling nature of the Drama School’s campus presents a number of problems for the students there. 

Cain, an MFA candidate in theater management, explained how the old and disparate buildings present issues for collaboration and socializing, while also limiting accessibility for certain students. There are also physical impediments presented by the numerous buildings, especially when organizing performances which require the movement of equipment, Cain explained.

“We’re really spread thin, and it would be great if we could be able to have a more central location,” Cain said. 

The school’s many buildings and specific departments — acting, design or directing, for example — “make it so it can be really hard to get to know students and other programs, unless you’re specifically working on production with them,” Cain said. 

She further added that the fractured nature of the school presents a challenge for the collaborative model that is central to theater. 

Florie Seery, the associate dean of the Drama School, explained in an email to the News the exact goals of this infrastructure improvement. 

“The ideal outcome is a facility that consolidates most of School and Rep functions, while also bringing Theater and Performance Studies and the Yale Dramatic Association (Dramat) rehearsal hall under the very same roof,” she wrote. “We will build a stronger theatrical community while reducing the number of facilities being utilized by DGSD to four or five, depending on the final design.”

She added that the centerpiece of the building will be a “new state-of-the-art home for Yale Rep,” and Yale College students will also have the opportunity to produce in this theater each year.

In recognition of the current challenges, the school has taken steps to improve the collaboration and communication among students, namely community days, which are days off from class on which departments within the school open their doors to the wider community. 

Cain pointed out that the fact that the University has to institute these programs is emblematic of the problem presented by the fractured campus, where students do not have the same opportunity to “[run] into [their] classmates in the hall.”

Cain suggested that one of the central issues with the school’s many buildings is that they are not all up to standard for accessibility for disabled students. 

“I think that the lack of accessibility is really named and really noticed in our school, and that because these buildings are so old, there’s only so much that can be done to them,” she said. “I would look forward to an opportunity where all students could physically access all spaces, and not have any separation.”

The University has made supporting the drama school a priority for the coming years. In a previous interview, University President Peter Salovey told the News that the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, had discussed the development of a new central building for the Drama School.

Berman further added that as part of the current campaign, the University has secured “significant pledges for the new building” and that alumni of both the school of drama and Yale College have been “enthusiastic” donors. 

The Drama School is now tuition-free following a donation from David Geffen.

Philip Mousavizadeh covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously covered the Jackson Institute. He is a sophomore in Trumbull College studying Ethics, Politics, and Economics