Yale announces plans for new dramatic arts building
University President Peter Salovey announced plans to build new theater performance spaces for students in the arts. Faculty and students welcomed the proposal, which is still in a design phase, as a much-needed overhaul.
Gavin Guerrette, Photography Editor
Yale will soon build a new dramatic arts building, a development which some faculty and students in the University’s performing arts community see as long overdue.
According to University President Peter Salovey, the building will include two theaters: one for the David Geffen School of Drama and another for the Yale Repertory Theater. The space will also accommodate other groups, including undergraduate theater students and the Dramat.
“The arts at Yale inspire creativity across campus and help us all search for meaning in the profound diversity of human experience,” Salovey told the News. “That search enriches and changes lives.”
The firm KPMB Architects will begin the pre-design for the building, which will continue over a period of two years, Salovey wrote. The University will commit to the construction phase once an undisclosed fundraising goal for the project is reached.
Previous proposals for dramatic arts buildings have been located at the corner of Sachem and Prospect Streets near Pauli Murray College. The new building, which is still in a design phase, does not yet have a proposed location.
Faculty and students in the arts expressed support for the project, with several noting that Yale’s existing infrastructure for performing arts has long been in dire need of change.
Valentina Simon ’25, a dancer for the Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company and the Yale Modern Dance Collective as well as a staff reporter for the News, expressed excitement at the prospect of a new dance space, adding that it would be “wonderful” for dance groups on campus to have a greater variety of resources.
She noted that there were “rehearsal space headaches” over the lack of space dance groups had, with some existing spaces being booked for two groups at once.
“The dance world is a little bit meeker here on campus, and it would be wonderful to have more resources,” Simon said.
According to Tyler Cruz DRA ’23, students involved in theater “absolutely need a new building.”
Cruz described existing dramatic arts facilities, which include buildings 149 York Street and 305 Crown Street, as “terrible,” having witnessed visible leaks “coming down the walls” as well as holes “in some places.”
“There are things that are just falling apart,” Cruz told the News.
Cruz described the Yale Repertory Theatre, which is a regional theater where students perform professionally, as having several challenges, including poor auditory quality and a small performance stage. Actors can’t really feel the sound reverberate “the way they feel it in other theaters,” Cruz told the News, and the space itself is not optimal for performances. While the Repertory Theatre itself was founded in 1966, the building was originally constructed in 1846 as the Calvin Baptist Church.
“It’s probably my least favorite [of the theater spaces],” Cruz said. “The way that it’s set up, it’s kind of hard to connect to the audience in that space.”
Cruz has performed at other spaces, such as the Yale Cabaret, which she described as a theater meant to allow students to “kind of throw paint on the wall” by experimenting with new artistic ideas. But the existing facilities did not meet the infrastructural or technical support needed to allow students to do that.
She hopes that the designs for the new theater facilities will be able to “meet students’ ideas” and add modular staging systems from https://modularflatstaging.co.uk/.
“That’s something that I really hope to see if these plans come to fruition,” Cruz said.
Theater professor Joseph Roach also welcomed the change but expressed skepticism over its implementation. Roach told the News that he sat on a series of planning committees for new facility proposals over the last two decades — the University, he said, made grand promises towards the arts in these proposals but later failed to follow through on them.
In a 2012 external routine review of the University’s departments and programs, a panel of experts examined existing theater spaces for Yale undergraduates and found poor infrastructure. The status of theater buildings was “appalling,” Roach said.
To rectify the issue, Roach said, a committee consisting of members from the Theater Studies Department set out to scope out a site for a new theater, and discussed the plans with architects and consultants. According to Roach, the committee brought their plans to administrators, who began to cut out features over concerns of cost.
But Roach said these features were necessary to make the building serve a purpose which could not be served by what the University already had.
“By the time they got through, it wasn’t … really worth building,” Roach said. “So the committee just folded.”
Soon after, Roach said, planning for the Schwarzman Center commenced. While the Schwarzman Center was designed to be a center for the arts at Yale, it is not necessarily a practical space to host student-run theater productions, according to Roach.
“It’s always been a promise deferred,” Roach said regarding the prospects of a new theater space. “There’s always been a reason why we couldn’t fund or we couldn’t get to a performing arts center, or even just a workable theater.”
Where the theater studies department planned to build a new dramatic arts building on the corner of Sachem and Prospect a decade ago
Salovey told the News that the Schwarzman Center and the theater Roach spoke of were two unrelated projects and that “any decisions about one did not affect the other.”
He added that arts faculty members, deans and other university leaders looked into whether the theater should be built, but decided at the time that the building’s “location and the timing were not aligned.
Dean of the David Geffen School of Drama James Bundy declined to comment for this article, referring the News to the University communications website.
The School of Drama is located at 222 York St.