Developments in the 1970s
The Campaign for Yale in the mid-1970s, which sought $370,000,000 from university affiliates, corporations, and foundations, was then the largest private fundraising effort attempted. Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Yale Repertory Theatre, the fundraising campaign established a goal of raising $14,500,000 for the School of Drama.
Staging over 100 productions each year in addition to major spikes in student enrollment, the School of Drama was committed to the continued operation and improvement of Yale Rep. The theater would stage many of its most iconic and innovative productions throughout the 1970s, launching the careers of several award-winning actors, writers, and designers.
Sondheim in the pool with The Frogs
Burt Shevelove and Stephen Sondheim adapted Aristophanes’ The Frogs as a musical, staged in the pool at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, with a huge cast and chorus, plus twenty-one members of the Yale swim team as the eponymous amphibians. Among the singers were students Christopher Durang (DRA ’74), Meryl Streep (DRA’75), and Sigourney Weaver (DRA ’74).
In despair at the present-day state of the world, Dionysos hits upon the idea of bringing a great playwright back to life to inspire humanity. Shaw and Shakespeare compete for the honor. The 1973-74 subscriber brochure called The Frogs a “wacky song-dance-and-swim satire,” while the illustration of a 1974 advertisement (pictured here) accurately reflects the humor of the production.
Streep, Durang, and Dostoevsky
Andrzej Wajda’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel The Possessed featured Christopher Lloyd as Stavrogin and Meryl Streep (then in her third year at the School of Drama) as his mistress Liza. Christopher Durang (DRA ’74) played the Student—and was at the time a playwriting student.
Christopher Durang wrote The Idiots Karamazov with Albert Innaurato (DRA ’74) while both were students at the School of Drama, originally producing it in a workshop as "The Brothers K." A manic musical satire on Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and the Western literary canon in general, it poked fun at Yale Rep’s production of The Possessed, with which it shared the 1974-75 season. Meryl Streep played the ancient translator Constance Garnett, who tries, not quite successfully, to narrate the story of The Brothers Karamazov. Ralph Redpath (DRA ’75) played her butler, Ernest Hemingway.