Lloyd Richards and August Wilson
Lloyd Richards: Dean and Artistic Director
Lloyd Richards came to Yale in 1979. In 1959, he became the first African-American director on Broadway with Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. He was the artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center from 1968-1999, and known for developing the careers of many young playwrights like Lee Blessing, Wendy Wasserstein (DRA ’76), and David Henry Hwang (DRA ’83).
In his second season, Richards directed a new production of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Dianne Wiest was Hedda to James Earl Jones’s Judge Brack, with Frances McDormand (DRA ’82), then a student, understudying Mrs. Elvsted.
Set in South Africa in 1950, "Master Harold"… and the Boys distills the personal costs of apartheid in the relationship of a young white man to two older black men who are his family’s servants. It is one of Athol Fugard’s most-produced plays. Immediately after its Yale Rep premiere, “Master Harold”… and the Boys went to Broadway, then a national tour, and a 2003 Broadway revival. Most recently, Fugard directed a critically-lauded production at Signature Theatre in fall 2016. Lloyd Richards was instrumental in bringing the South African playwright’s work to American audiences, staging eight of his plays, of which four premiered at Yale Rep.
August Wilson at Yale Rep
Lloyd Richards directed five of August Wilson’s plays in a creative partnership that spanned two decades. Six of the ten plays in Wilson’s American Century Cycle, chronicling the African-American experience, premiered at Yale Rep: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984), Fences (1985), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1986), The Piano Lesson (1987), Two Trains Running (1990), and Radio Golf (2005). This season’s production of Seven Guitars adds a seventh Wilson play to Yale Rep’s production history, directed by Timothy Douglas (DRA ‘86), who also directed Radio Golf.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the first of Wilson’s plays that Richards directed, went on to a Broadway production that received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations and won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play in 1985. This script from the 1984 production shows a song swapped out for another, with new lyrics written in.
Fences went to Broadway with the same cast as the Yale Rep production and won the 1987 Tony for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, along with an acting award for James Earl Jones and a directing award for Richards. It was revived for the West End and Broadway and adapted into a film starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
Eugene O’Neill at Yale Rep
“O’Neill 100” celebrated the centenary of Eugene O’Neill’s birth with Yale Rep productions of Long Day’s Journey into Night and Ah, Wilderness! O’Neill was a playwriting student of George Pierce Baker, the first chairman of Yale School of Drama, while both were at Harvard. Published in 1956 through Yale University Press by his widow, Carlotta, after the playwright’s death, Long Day’s Journey into Night won him a fourth Pulitzer Prize and established his reputation as a master of the American theater. Proceeds from the publication of the play continue to fund many activities at the Yale Library and the School of Drama.
Richards directed A Moon for the Misbegotten, O’Neill’s final play, as his final production as artistic director of Yale Rep.
Yale Repertory Theatre won the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1991.