Jessai Flores

When I came to Yale, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a “theater kid.” My Yale College Arts page — LinkedIn for the theater community, which tracks just how overcommitted everyone is — begs to differ.

Theater brought me joy in high school, but would it be the place I belonged in college? 

But then Maya Li ’25 asked if I wanted to join “Violet” as an assistant stage manager, or ASM. Maya is possibly the warmest, most welcoming person I’ve ever met; with Maya, I’ve never felt like a first-year — just a friend. She embraced my fellow ASMs, Annabelle Hee ’26, Alastair Rao ’26, Quincy Rosenzweig ’26 and me into the theater fold with open arms. Through long rehearsals, backstage drama and buttery hang outs, the five of us quickly grew close. And even now, months after the show ended, we still have weekly dinners. 

And this kindness isn’t exclusive to Maya. So many others have encouraged me to be part of this community — to grow through the collaborations, roles and opportunities it offers.

The people of the theater community are exceptional: talented and driven and compassionate. 

With so many shows and organizations around campus, it can feel like there’s a steep learning curve to getting involved. Even with a few productions under my belt, I have lots to learn. Still, I’ve compiled everything I do know into this guide. Hopefully, this offers some insight on how you can become part of theater at Yale — or even just understand how the shows you see are made. Prepare for loads of abbreviations!

The Yale Dramatic Association (The Dramat)

The Dramat is Yale’s largest undergraduate theater organization. Run by an Executive Board of 11 elected students, the Dramat puts on six full-scale shows every year. 

There are two mainstage shows, each produced by an Executive Board member. These shows hire professional designers, employ student crew heads and involve dozens of students as actors, assistant designers, assistant stage managers, crew members and more. 

The other four productions — two “Ex’s,” the first-year show (froshow), and a commencement musical — are proposed and led by separate student teams. AJ Walker ’26, who directed this year’s froshow, reflects, “I feel like as a first-year trying to get to know what theater at Yale is like, the Dramat was great because they gave me the resources to know how to put a show together.”

Typically, Dramat shows are the largest productions Yale undergraduates put on — with big teams, full sets, impressive budgets and access to professional spaces. An easy way to get involved is by joining the Dramat Associate Board. As part of “Ass Board” — yes, that’s the abbreviation they went with — you have an Executive Board parent who introduces you to their role with tasks, weekly dinners and more. Last semester, I joined Ass Board as a Fall Mainstage Assistant Producer and met so many fantastic first-years and upperclassmen alike.

“What sets the Dramat apart in Yale theater its the continuous community it provides,” President Lily Pérez said in a statement to the News. “The Dramat has given me opportunities to build and sustain relationships with people over time in service of a season of shows, rather than individual productions. For those curious about administrative theater/arts administration, the Dramat is the closest analogue to the professional theater landscape in terms of scale and structure, too!”

Creative and Performing Arts Grants (CPAs)

To me, CPAs are possibly the most unique part of Yale theater. With CPAs, any student can put on a show — big or small, high or low time commitment. CPAs widely range, with this semester’s shows including student renditions of “Spring Awakening,” “Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” “The Wiz” and “Coriolanus,” as well as student-written productions of “Long Way Down” and “for colored girls” and so, so much more.

Through the residential colleges, anyone can apply for funding to put on a show of their choosing. The process isn’t competitive and almost everyone gets some funding (albeit, not always as much as they want) and a venue in one of the residential college theaters. 

Playwright and director Hank Graham ’24 has presented many of his original works as CPAs. “My favorite thing about the CPA system is that it really allows us to be making educational theater — learning by doing and learning by failing and trying again, and figuring things out by ourselves,” says Graham.

Once a CPA application is approved, Undergraduate Productions (UP) the administrative department overseeing all shows, also assigns a Peer Mentor to each project. CPAs are a great way to get involved in theater with friends — as either an actor or a member of the production team.

Performance Groups

There are a variety of performance groups on campus, each with their own niche.

For instance, the Yale Artists Cabaret, or YAC, produces musical cabarets that bridge the gap between performance groups across campus. Founders and artistic directors Lauren Marut ’25 and Soleil Singh ’24 tell the News: “We have people who do a cappella, opera, theater — and we wanted to found an organization that offered a low stress and really just fun time commitment for performers to put together a musical theater review.”

The Asian American Collective of Theatermakers (AACT), on the other hand, aims to create a welcoming space for Asian American artists to collaborate. The group was founded just this past year, as president Sam Ahn ’24 saw a need for a centralized Asian American theater community. “It’s been amazing to see the excitement that AACT has generated among Asian American students, especially those who have never done theater before!” says Ahn.

Other campus groups include — but are far from limited to! — Teatro de Yale, The Opera Theater of Yale College and Yale Children’s Theater. 

Some of these groups receive funding through CPAs, while others have their own funds. On the whole, these groups are open and exciting environments for people to get involved in a type of theater that especially interests them.

Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TAPS? TDAPS? Who even knows anymore…) Senior Theses 

As the last major type of theater performance around campus, some senior theater majors put on productions as their theses. The senior serves as principal actor, director, designer or writer — sometimes, multiple seniors run the thesis together. These productions are sponsored by the department and usually run out of 53 Wall Street’s black box theater. 

While a senior may lead the show, students of all years can get involved — as I did with “Violet”! I’ve found senior theses to be an accessible middle ground of Yale theater: less intensive than a full-scale Dramat production, but more inherently structured than CPAs, as the theater department is involved. For me personally, being part of a senior thesis was a wonderful way to get to know some phenomenal seniors I would’ve never met otherwise.

Yale Drama Coalition (YDC)

Overseeing all of these student groups is the YDC: the umbrella organization for Yale theater. YDC primarily operates through its Board, which collaborates with both administrators and student leaders to improve accessibility, fairness and community across Yale theater. The Board has both elected and appointed positions; anyone is eligible as long as they have attended at least two meetings. As such, the YDC’s weekly meetings are all open to everyone. 

“Everyone’s welcome — and that’s our number one goal,” says YDC Vice President Marissa Blum ’24.

YDC hosts season previews, a chance for all shows to advertise themselves, and runs monthly casting cycles, ensuring casting is equitable for all. Returning next fall is the Collaborative Arts Matching Program, or CAMP, an opportunity for writers to workshop their original works and for actors to be matched to the stage reading that most aligns with their interests and availability.

“The reason that I’ve continued to be part of the Yale Drama Coalition is the people,” reflects YDC President Jeffrey Steele ’24. “Being part of this board has really helped me support my friends, meet new people in theater, and give everyone a chance to find an avenue to do what they want to do as best as we can.”

How to Learn About & See Shows

All upcoming shows are listed on the Yale College Arts website. The website notes upcoming shows both in the next week and for the rest of the semester. Each show’s individual page includes information on its premise, actors, production team, as well as how to reserve tickets. 

How to Get Involved

Just reach out! Check out the Dramat, UP and YDC’s email newsletters; join Ass Board; or even reach out to members of performance groups as listed on Yale College Arts. You will undoubtedly be met with helpful and eager responses. I know I would love nothing more than to pay Maya’s kindness forward by welcoming more people to Yale theater.

Abby Asmuth edits for the WKND desk. She previously wrote WKND cultural reviews and personal essays. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, she is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards majoring in English.