Y ale’s New Haven campus isn’t exactly dark in the summertime. It houses everyone from the precocious high schoolers in the Explo program to the crooners and directors who staff the Summer Cabaret hosted by the Yale School of Drama.
But then it isn’t exactly bustling the way it is during the school year. So where has everyone gone? Many Yalies choose to take their studies and recreation elsewhere in the summertime. And some of these getaways are just a short drive to another part of Connecticut, which will make for delightful day trips even if your summer wardrobe isn’t blue-and-white striped.
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford is a stone’s skip down the waterfront from the New London hometown of the great playwright after whom the center is named. The O’Neill Center isn’t directly Yale-related, but it was founded by a Yalie, George C. White, and hit its stride in the 1980s when its then artistic director, Lloyd Richards, was also running the Yale School of Drama. White continues to lecture in Theater Management at Yale. Richards, who died in 2006, used the experiment-friendly environment of the O’Neill Center—the structure of which inspired the conference’s film counterpart, Robert Redford’s Sundance Festival—to nurture the career of future Pulitzer-
winning playwrights such as August Wilson and Lee Blessing.
In the past decade, the center has become known as the proving ground of newfangled musicals such as Avenue Q and In the Heights. The shows are workshopped and rewritten right on the spacious grassy premises, and given script-in-hand readings before appreciative audiences who are well aware that their reactions can determine the success of a new work.
At this point in the season, one of the four musicals in O’Neill’s Musical Theater Conference still has performances, through July 13, while six of the eight plays in the National Playwrights Conference haven’t had their readings yet. One of them, Meg Miroshnik’s Tall Girls, about a female basketball team, is known to New Haven audiences from the Carlotta Festival of New Plays at the Yale School of Drama, where it was staged just before Miroshnik graduated in 2011.
A slew of other Yale actors turn up at the Westport Country Playhouse this month in the 17th century Moliere comedy Tartuffe, July 17 through August 4. The director is David Kennedy, who ran the Yale Summer Cabaret when he was at the Yale School of Drama in the late 1990s. The folks designing the set, costumes, lights and sound for the show, as well as the Fight Director and one
of the actors, are all YSD grads or faculty members.
For over a century, the summer campus of the Yale School of Music has been in Norfolk, where land owned by the daughter of the school’s first professor became a hip classical concert destination in the 1890s and eventually grew into the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. The festival’s current season, which runs July 11 through August 18, features many world-class musicians who’ve been students, instructors or artists-in-residence at Yale, including the Tokyo String Quartet. The acoustically superb concert hall delightfully known as “The Shed” also hosts up-and-coming talent, with frequent free-of-charge Young Artists’ Performances starring students in the Yale Summer School of Music.
And for a more bucolic setting, others head for the Yale Outdoor Education Center, a woodland retreat (pictured above) situated in East Lyme. A Yale ID is required for admission to the 1,500 acre spread, where there’s swimming, boating and picnicking for university staff, faculty, students and their families. Day passes are available at $6 for adults and $3 for children. Those opting for a season membership can rent a lakeside cabin or a campsite. During the week, the Education Center is also used for the Yale Summer Sports Camp program. On a recent Sunday afternoon, claps of thunder caused the beach area to close for a while, but couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of visitors. They simply shifted their energies to a rigorous rainswept game of volleyball, or sought shelter in the trees, cabins and gazebos.
The sights and sounds of Yale waft throughout the state in summertime. Follow them.
Written and photographed by Christopher Arnott.