Send up puffs of white smoke from the student center: the Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre have a new Dean and artistic director: James Bundy, who's spent the last three years running the Great Lakes Theatre Festival in Cleveland, OH. Bundy will arrive at Yale July 1, taking over for Stan Wojewodski, Jr., who exits after a ten-year tenure.
In a statement, Yale University President Richard C. Levin praised the incoming dean for his "keen intelligence, his willingness to listen and his quiet self-confidence." In his three years in Cleveland, the Great Lakes fest has beefed up attendance by 30 percent, diversified the ethnic makeup of its audience and expanded its educational program. Among shows being prepped there for the 2001-02 season are premieres of the Broadway-intended Lone Star Love and a Langston Hughes-based collage, Love Langston.
Prior to his Great Lakes years, Bundy served as managing director of the Cornerstone Theatre Company and went on to get his MFA in directing from Yale Drama School. 1996-98 saw him serving as an associate producing director for The Acting Company professional touring troupe.
The autumn of 2001 mark three important milestones for Yale Rep: the university's 2001 tercentennial, the Yale School of Drama marks its 76th year, and Yale Rep (the professional extension of the School) observes its 36th anniversary. Currently on the boards is Wojewodski's staging of Shaw's You Never Can Tell. At the Drama School's New Theatre on Chapel Street, late fall will see Tennessee Williams' infrequently-revived Kingdom of Earth. The comedy It Pays to Advertise arrives Dec. 4-22, with Christopher Durang's dark farce Betty's Summer Vacation coming to Yale Rep in February. Capping the season in March will be the graduate acting class doing Serious Money.
One of Wojewodski's most important contributions to the school and theatre's aesthetic was integrating dance and alternative forms of drama into the mix, with Suzan Lori Parks' The America Play one example. Wojewodski also funded international trips by choreographer Ralph Lemon to create the epic Geography project. Wojewodski came to Yale Rep — then run by Lloyd Richards — after 13 years as a director for Baltimore's Center Stage. According to a January story in the Yale Herald, Bill Roach, chair of the search committee, said that, "The chances are good that anyone offered the job will take it. Yale is unique — the dean is an important leader."
Rosalind Friedman, theatre critic for CT's WMNR (88.1 FM), welcomes the change at Yale Rep. "I'm looking forward to a new regime, a new point of view. I can speak for the Connecticut critics, who follow this pretty closely, and they have been very disappointed in [Wojewodski's] work. His interpretations of Shakespeare were just awful and overly crude. His work with the students I thought was disastrous. They have a production they do every year with the drama school to show off the students. This past year's was horrendous. I thought, `how could any of these people learn how to act?' And they've lost a tremendous subscription base because people weren't going to the theatre. They lost favor in the audience's eyes.
"And what's ironic is that their latest production it's You Never Can Tell, and it's absolutely beautiful. It made me Look through all the stuff he's done, the only thing I liked was Candida, another Shaw play from some seasons ago."
Asked about the celebrated but controversial Geography project, Friedman said, "In all honesty I have never seen such a travesty in my life. [Choreographer] Lemon went all over Africa with this expense account and came back with something really bizarre, awful and meaningless. People were running out of the theatre, the decibel level was so painful. And I love avant garde things, things that stretch the mind and are challenging, but this was... And what's worse was they did this the first time and it didn't work out. But then they brought [Lemon] back a second time? That's one of the judgment calls I question."
Another Connecticut Critics Circle member, Irene Backalenick (Back Stage and, starting Nov. 1, the Connecticut Post), echoed Friedman's comments more gently. "In contrast to Lloyd Richards," Backalenick told PBOL, "[Wojewodski] gave a lot more attention to the students and the school. But I think very often the productoins suffered. You saw people up there who were not top-drawer in roles. Generally people were not thrilled with the work going on there the past few years, although they do have a good show at the moment [You Never Can Tell]."
— By David Lefkowitz