Light & Verity

Drama grant means more new plays

David Cooper

David Cooper

Director Robert Woodruff (left) and actor Bill Camp are adapting Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground for the Yale Rep. The spring production will be the first to benefit from a $2.85 million grant for new plays. View full image

The Yale School of Drama and its affiliated Yale Repertory Theatre have been at the forefront of new play development for quite a while already. The Carlotta Festival offers full productions of works by student playwrights, the Rep regularly stages world premieres, noted dramatist Paula Vogel has been designated resident playwright at the Rep, and the Yale Cabaret offers ample chances for extracurricular experimentation. Now, a three-year, $2.85 million grant will allow the School of Drama to bring its development of new works for the American theater to a new level. The grant comes from the Robina Foundation, a Minneapolis-based fund established by the late James H. Binger ’38.

The Rep's associate artistic director, Jennifer Kiger, says that even before Robina had cut a check, the Rep had over a dozen current commissions in progress, from both established and up-and-coming writers. An adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel Notes from Underground, scheduled for the Rep in spring 2009, will be funded in part by the grant. James Bundy ’95MFA, dean of the School of Drama and artistic director of the Rep, says the Robina millions will fund, among other things, productions of plays at theaters other than Yale. (The grant itself carries few restrictions beyond its agreed-upon purpose of furthering new works for the theater.) Subsidizing secondary presentations or tours of promising new plays can greatly extend the lives of works that may otherwise be doomed to drop out of sight after their premieres. Thanks to Robina's generosity, commissions of works with large casts -- especially elaborate musical theater pieces, which are expensive -- are now more realistic.

To mark the importance of the grant, the drama school has created the Yale Center for New Theatre. Bundy says the center is not a physical space but an administrative home for various play development projects, as well as a title that "entails the different level of commitment we now can offer." The results won't be just a bonus for Rep subscribers, but should be seen far and wide. 

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