Named Spaces

In 2018, several rooms on our campus were named in honor of members of the School of Drama and Yale Rep community who represent a diverse spectrum of identity, lived experience, and contributions to the School, Yale Rep, and the field of performing arts. By uplifting the names of these individuals, we celebrate their historic accomplishments and shine a light on leaders whose lives provide inspiration and reinforce a sense of belonging for all who teach, learn, and practice here. This initiative was led by the tireless efforts of the Naming Spaces Action Group, under the auspices of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group. To learn more about the history of the Naming Spaces Initiative, read this account by Tori Sampson (’17).

 

COLLABORATORS:

Dramaturg Nahuel Telleria (’16)

Dramaturgy Supervisor Catherine Sheehy (’92, ’99 DFA, Faculty)

Graphic Designer Yuliya Eisenmann

Framing Vendor Hull’s Art Supply & Framing

Naming Spaces Action Group Ellen Lange (Staff), Catherine María Rodríguez (’18), Tori Sampson (’17), and Matthew Suttor (Faculty).

School of Drama Leadership James Bundy (’95, Dean), Victoria Nolan (Deputy Dean), Chantal Rodriguez (Associate Dean), and Kelvin Dinkins, Jr. (Assistant Dean).

 

 

JUMP TO:

Laurie Beechman
(April 4, 1953 – March 8, 1998)

The Laurie Beechman Center for Theatrical Sound Design and Music at 205 Park Street

Carmen de Lavallade
(born March 6, 1931)

The Carmen de Lavallade Room at 149 York, Room 221

María Irene Fornés
(May 14, 1930 – October 30, 2018)

The María Irene Fornés Studio at 305 Crown Street, Room 10

Julie Harris
(December 2, 1925 – August 24, 2013)

The Julie Harris Room at 149 York, Room 109

Harry Kondoleon
(February 26, 1955 – March 16, 1994)

The Harry Kondoleon Studio at 217 Park Street, Room 101

Ming Cho Lee
(October 3, 1930 – October 23, 2020)

The Ming Cho Lee Room at 205 Park Street, Room 102

Arthur Pepine
(January 1, 1937 – October 7, 1999)

The Arthur Pepine Access Ramp at 222 York Street, University Theatre

Scott Robertson
(April 29, 1961 – March 22, 1994)

The Scott Robertson Computer Lab at 205 Park Street, Room B04

Wendy Wasserstein
(October 18, 1950 – January 30, 2006)

The Wendy Wasserstein Room at 149 York, Room 107

August Wilson
(April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005)

The August Wilson Lounge at 1120 Chapel Street in the Yale Repertory Theatre

 

 

 

Laurie Beechman

(April 4, 1953 – March 8, 1998)

An actor and singer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Laurie Beechman played multiple parts in the original production of Annie (1977), originated the role of The Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1982), sang “Memory” as Grizabella for more than four years on Broadway and in the 1983 national touring company production of Cats (1981), and played Fantine in a 1990 touring production of Les Misérables (1980) and as a replacement in the Broadway production. Beechman also performed in cabarets and concerts, singing a mix of pop, rock, and theater tunes. Her albums include Listen to My Heart (1990), Time between the Time (1993), The Andrew Lloyd Webber Album (1995), and No One Is Alone (1996).

In the near-decade that followed a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the late 1980s, Beechman spoke openly and frequently about her illness. Her bravery lent vibrancy to the often-tragic characters she played even as she was submitting her body to numerous rounds of chemotherapy. Through it all, Beechman exemplified the will to live, choosing to think of cancer as a chronic condition rather than an inevitably fatal disease: “The perception people have of cancer is that you’re cured or you die, and that’s not necessarily how it works. It can be more like diabetes, a part of life.”

To honor the woman who once claimed, “I worship at the altar of Ethel Merman,” her husband, Neil A. Mazzella (’78), president of Hudson Scenic Studio and Hudson Theatrical Associates, made a donation to Yale School of Drama in 1999 to create the Laurie Beechman Center for Theatrical Sound Design and Music. For Beechman, music became her therapy: “These last few years, I have come to think of singing as a form of healing. When you sing, you resonate. I visualize the vibrations going through my body as a kind of medicine.” That medicine vibrates beyond the sound recording studio in the basement of the Annex, a hive of theatrical exploration and performance that cannot be contained.

Christopher Ross-Ewart (’17) and Fan Zhang (’17) in the Laurie Beechman Center for Theatrical Sound Design and Music. Christopher Ross-Ewart (’17) and Fan Zhang (’17) in the Laurie Beechman Center for Theatrical Sound Design and Music.

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Carmen de Lavallade

(born March 6, 1931)

 

Carmen de Lavallade

Dancer, actor, and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade identifies primarily as a storyteller, her body the expressive medium. “Your hands gotta talk,” she says. “Those are your words.” In her youth in Los Angeles, she trained with Lester Horton, whose dancing technique and diverse work in dance, theater, and movies influenced de Lavallade and her friend Alvin Ailey, whom she brought along to Horton’s classes and with whom she later moved to the East Coast to star on Broadway. Throughout her career, de Lavallade has prioritized diversity of opportunity, working in films, musicals, ballet, modern dance, Shakespeare, even singing at Carnegie Hall and touring with bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. She also collaborated with her husband, Geoffrey Holder (the late actor, dancer, choreographer, singer, director, and painter), has performed at The Metropolitan Opera and American Ballet Theater, and choreographed for the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Philadanco. She is the recipient of the 2004 Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award, 2006 Bessie Award, and the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors Award.

But acting students at Yale School of Drama between 1970 and 1979 knew de Lavallade primarily as their movement teacher and performer-in-residence at Yale Repertory Theatre. As part of the faculty and the Rep’s acting company, de Lavallade worked tirelessly, choreographing and performing in such spectacles as the “freely adapted” 1974 musical production of The Frogs at the Yale Swimming Pool, in which de Lavallade commanded poolside dancers and the amphibious chorus (recruited from the ranks of Yale’s swim team), and the 1975 co-production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Yale School of Music, in which she starred as Titania alongside Meryl Streep (’75, D.FA. ’83) as Helena and Christopher Lloyd as Oberon. From her time at the School and Yale Rep, de Lavallade learned the freedom made possible by versatility and cultivated the renaissance-woman spirit necessary for a life in the arts: “Lester [Horton] told me, ‘There’s going to be a time.’ And he could see the future, ‘that you will not just be an actor, a dancer, a singer; you will have to do everything.’ And it’s come to pass.”

Leland Fowler (’17), George Hampe (’17), and Jonathan Higginbotham (’17) during a Clown class in the Carmen de Lavallade Room. Leland Fowler (’17), George Hampe (’17), and Jonathan Higginbotham (’17) during a Clown class in the Carmen de Lavallade Room.

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María Irene Fornés

(May 14, 1930 – October 30, 2018)

 

María Irene Fornés

Avant-garde playwright, feminist, and director María Irene Fornés came to prominence during the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway movement in New York City. She was a founder and former leader of INTAR’s Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Laboratory. Arriving at age 15 from Cuba with her widowed mother and speaking only Spanish, she spurned formal schooling to study with expressionist painter Hans Hofmann in Greenwich Village. She credits seeing the original production of Waiting for Godot while living in Paris and helping her partner Susan Sontag overcome writer’s block with inspiring her to become a playwright. Her dynamic dramaturgy reflects her modus vivendi: Fornés preferred living moment to moment, something she had learned from Lee Strasberg after sneaking into one of his classes in the Actors Studio. “My plays usually start in manners that are very arbitrary,” she said, “I try for my head not to interfere, and I try to see what’s coming out.” Her distinctly improvisatory style garnered nine OBIEs, one for sustained achievement, and eight others for plays such as Promenade (1965), a comedic musical collaboration with Reverend Al Carmines; Mud (1983), a domestic-absurdist story told in tableaux; and The Conduct of Life (1985), a stance against dictatorships in Latin American countries and the bedroom. Her most widely produced play Fefu and Her Friends (1977), a feminist rumination on intimacy and male-dominated landscapes, appeared on the Yale Repertory Theatre stage (and in the Rep lounge and at the back of the house) in 1992 as part of the experimental theater festival Winterfest. She also taught a playwriting seminar that fall. She was a winner of the Distinguished Artists Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the New York State Governor’s Award.

Fornés developed Alzheimer’s, a disease that claimed her memory; however, her devoted playwriting students—a list that includes Migdalia Cruz, Cherríe Moraga, Caridad Svich, Nilo Cruz, Luis Alfaro, and Eduardo Machado—now themselves teachers, kept her legacy vital by promulgating her method of vibrant mentorship. Even as theater academics and historians—many of them School of Drama graduates and professors—return time and again to find more to contemplate and excavate in her work. For Fornés, writing meant being in tune with what’s happening in the present moment and developing an individual point of view. A playwright, she believed, must learn “the anatomy of inspiration.”

Stephanie Machado (’18) during a Commedia rehearsal in the María Irene Fornés Studio. Stephanie Machado (’18) during a Commedia rehearsal in the María Irene Fornés Studio.

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Julie Harris

(December 2, 1925 – August 24, 2013)

 

Julie Harris

Stage, film, and television actor Julie Harris (’47, DFAH ’07) was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and attended Yale School of Drama 1944–45. During her year at the School, Harris auditioned for the sentimental comedy It’s a Gift on Broadway and got the lead. Walter Pritchard Eaton, a playwriting professor at the time, asked her, “Why did you come here?” “To act,” she replied. “Well, go act!” he said. And act she did—for 65 more years, until her retirement following a stroke. Over the course of her long career, Harris won six Tony Awards, three Emmy Awards, and a Grammy. She was inducted in the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1979. Her extraordinary range as an actor garnered her praise for stage performances as diverse as Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera (1952) and Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst (1977). Her film work included classics of the medium like The Member of the Wedding (1952), East of Eden (1955), and The Bell Jar (1979). Critics have marveled at her “silvery voice” and “emotional transparency,” often describing Harris as one of the foremost American actors of the twentieth century.

Though Julie Harris’s time at the School was brief, her impact on student life continues. After her death, her Knots Landing cast mates Joan van Ark (’64) and Alec Baldwin, among others, started a scholarship in her name. The gesture was born of gratitude, as Harris had recommended van Ark when she was seeking entrance into the acting program. As Harris once said, “You always follow the work,” and the scholarship offers an actor financial support throughout the school year to do just that. In 2007, Julie Harris received an honorary D.F.A. from Yale School of Drama.

The sitzprobe rehearsal for <em/>The Children by Philip Howze (’15) in the Julie Harris Room at 149 York, Room 109. The sitzprobe rehearsal for The Children by Philip Howze (’15) in the Julie Harris Room at 149 York, Room 109.

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Harry Kondoleon

(February 26, 1955 – March 16, 1994)

 

Harry Kondoleon

In his short life, playwright Harry Kondoleon (’81), born in Queens, New York, wrote 18 plays, two novels, and two books of poetry. Before coming to Yale School of Drama, he had studied Balinese theater in an homage to Antonin Artaud, only to find out Artaud never went to Bali. “I suppose it was a sort of zany thing for me to do,” he confessed. While at the School, he studied with John Guare and developed plays like Self-Torture and Strenuous Exercise (1982), the satirical story of a man in love with another man’s wife; and Rococo (1981), a play about a wealthy woman and her snobby nieces. The latter appeared at Yale Rep during Lloyd Richards’s inaugural Winterfest season, during Kondoleon’s final year of study.

Upon graduation, Kondoleon immediately took up residence in the New York theater scene with plays produced at Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons, and The Public Theater, among others. He won an OBIE Award as Best Emerging Playwright in 1983, as well as another one in 1992 for his play The Houseguests, a dark comedy about murderous middle-class malaise, frustrated love, and physical and spiritual impairment: all staples of his fantastic and fantastically grim dramaturgy. “When people call me ‘loony’ or ‘zany,’ it strikes me as slightly dismissive, as if serious topics are only dealt with in a serious, stick-in-the-mud style,” he said in a 1988 interview. “Actually, I think it’s just the opposite, that life has all these textures to it. In our most raging moments, something absurd occurs, and vice versa, when everything is going well, something happens to make you feel awful.” Sadly, Kondoleon was speaking from a place of authority: In 1986 he had been diagnosed with AIDS. Until his death in 1994, Kondoleon wrote continually and ferociously about the epidemic and its devastating effect on his theatrical and queer communities, like in his play Zero Positive (1988), and his final novel Diary of a Lost Boy (1993), in which he warns all sentimental readers, “Please do not feel sorry for me—I go to some place thrilling!”

Manu Kumasi (’20), John Evans Reese (’20), and Abubakr Ali (’19) in a class production of <em/>The Last Days of Judas Iscariot in the Harry Kondoleon Studio. Manu Kumasi (’20), John Evans Reese (’20), and Abubakr Ali (’19) in a class production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot in the Harry Kondoleon Studio.

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Ming Cho Lee

(October 3, 1930 – October 23, 2020)

Ming Cho Lee

Chinese American set designer Ming Cho Lee taught generations of students, worked with countless collaborators, and left an indelible mark on worldwide theatrical discourse and practice. In more than 300 productions, Ming expanded the American scenographic tradition, emphasizing an architectonic, grand, and imaginative approach. His more than 20 Broadway credits include the original productions of Hair (1967) and for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf (1976). One of Joseph Papp’s constant collaborators, Ming designed the inaugural production at the Delacorte Theater and was a frequent guest artist at New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Arena Stage, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Guthrie Theater, among others. He received the 1983 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design for K2, as well as the 2002 National Medal of the Arts.

From 1969 to 2017, Ming Cho Lee rendered exceptional service to Yale School of Drama and its Design Department as well as Yale Repertory Theatre. He created the School Mace—an interpretation of the Greek comic and tragic masks in red—and contributed to the architectural reconfiguring of the Yale Rep stage with Michael Yeargan (’72) and the design of the Iseman Theater with former Technical Design and Production Chair Bronislaw (Ben) Sammler (’74). Along with his wife, Betsy, he also organized a design portfolio review from 1990 to 2009, for graduate students across several U.S. academies, under the memorable moniker “Ming’s Clambake.”

The accolades are many and deserved; however, his greatest accomplishment lives on in the memories of those students who attended his legendary Saturday classes. Part hot seat, part dispensation of wisdom, Ming’s all-day design class trained students to approach their craft the way he himself approached teaching—through a series of tempered, Socratic interactions and an appreciation for the poetry in the practical: “In theater you really need to know how to draw things the way they are. You can’t just start with abstraction. Composition, understanding the usage of what’s onstage, how things are revealed to the audience are the basis of studying scenography.”

Asa Benally (’16) with Michael Yeargan during a Design class in the Ming Cho Lee Room. Asa Benally (’16) with Michael Yeargan during a Design class in the Ming Cho Lee Room.

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Arthur Pepine

(January 1, 1937 – October 7, 1999)

Actor, stage manager, financial aid officer, and disability rights activist Arthur Pepine was born in Brooklyn, New York. With a high school diploma in performing arts and a bachelor’s degree in theater, Pepine worked on Broadway as a stage manager in the 1960s on the original productions of Malcom, Tiny Alice, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, before Dean Robert Brustein brought him to Yale School of Drama in 1966 as resident stage manager. During his first year at the School, Pepine damaged his spinal cord in a diving accident. After rehabilitation, he returned to the School as Assistant to the Dean and Financial Aid Officer, as well as faculty advisor for Yale Cabaret, positions which he fulfilled until the fall of 1999. Throughout his career, Pepine served on boards and commissions dedicated to accessibility issues like the State of Connecticut’s Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and in 1999 received the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities’ Roger Sherman Award for lifetime achievement in furthering human rights.

Pepine remarked in one of his many committees, regarding a building project, “I feel it’s only appropriate that whenever there are facilities for the general public, they should be made accessible to people with disabilities.” His own life experiences and time at the School have inarguably altered the institution’s infrastructure and mission, creating a legacy that continuously strives to make our spaces more accessible, such as the ramp outside the University Theatre, named in his honor. In his essay “Disability and Training in the Arts,” Pepine considers the steps institutions must take to facilitate mobility for people with disabilities, using the School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre as examples. “Attitudes and prejudices, among both employers and the public, are deeply ingrained,” he writes. “The unlearning of these perspectives, while moving at a seemingly glacial pace, will yield in time. People with disabilities must simply be prepared to capitalize on opportunities that come their way.”
 

 

Scott Robertson

(April 29, 1961 – March 22, 1994)

 

Scott Robertson

Technical director, designer, inventor, and instructor Scott Robertson (’91) was born in Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from college in Minnesota, he helped found the Refreshment Committee, an itinerant Christian performance group, and taught theater and English at North High School in Minneapolis. From 1988–91, he attended Yale School of Drama, earning an M.F.A. in technical design and production, as well as the Edward C. Cole Memorial Award—a token of the high esteem in which the TD&P faculty held him. While at the School, Robertson worked on many productions, most notably the 1990 Yale Rep production of Ivanov. He also was involved with Yale Cabaret, ordering new equipment for the space whenever there was profit. His classmates remember him for his sense of humor, his kindness, and his tremendous commitment.

Upon graduation, Robertson found employment at Santa Clara University as a technical theater instructor, set and sound designer, and technical director. He also worked on productions at Willows Theatre in Walnut Creek, California, and Project Artaud in San Francisco. Robertson’s last project was a theater sound automation product called Replay, which he was developing with Apple before his untimely passing in the spring of 1994. Liza Zenni (’90), Robertson’s wife, had hoped to continue her husband’s work, calling on the help of former Technical Design and Production Chair Bronislaw (Ben) Sammler (’74), among others. Unfortunately, Robertson’s floppy disks and computer files had somehow become corrupted. “Evidently, he elected to take it all with him, sly fox,” Zenni remarked, in a bittersweet reference to her husband’s sense of humor.

In an outpouring of love, Robertson’s classmates donated money to the School to create the Robertson Computer Lab, dedicated in his honor in December 1995. Thus his memory lives on for everyone using the computer lab, particularly those night-owl TDs and designers at work on their drafting. “Scott was an inspiration to me during some of my most difficult times at the Drama School,” design graduate Drew Boughton (’91) said. “In fact, more than once I felt he was the only one supporting me. When it was easy to let a ship sink, Scott stayed on board. When it would have been easy to crack jokes at the expense of others, he’d get on with the task at hand. People like that are too few to lose even one.”

Chika Shimizu (’15) and Caitlin Smith Rapoport (’15) in the Scott Robertson Computer Lab. Chika Shimizu (’15) and Caitlin Smith Rapoport (’15) in the Scott Robertson Computer Lab.

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Wendy Wasserstein

(October 18, 1950 – January 30, 2006)

 

Wendy Wasserstein

Born in Brooklyn, New York, playwright Wendy Wasserstein (’76) was known for a feminist dramaturgy delivered in a pristine comic package, or in her own words, “serious plays that are funny.” In 1976, she received her M.F.A. from Yale School of Drama, where she befriended fellow playwriting student Christopher Durang (’74). Together they wrote When Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth, a musical revue produced at Yale Cabaret. For her graduate thesis, Wasserstein wanted an all-female ensemble, so she wrote Uncommon Women and Others, a series of vignettes about the lives of students during and after college at her alma mater, Mount Holyoke. The play opened Off-Broadway in 1977, became a television movie starring Meryl Streep (’75, D.F.A.H. ’83) in 1978, and was revived in 1994. After graduation, Wasserstein found her artistic home at Playwrights Horizons, the institution that produced her most famous play, The Heidi Chronicles (1988). Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play, Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Heidi Chronicles looks at the history of Second-wave Feminism from the vantage point of an art historian. Her other plays include The Sisters Rosensweig (1992), an investigation of her Jewish roots; and An American Daughter (1997), the tale of a senator’s daughter and her attempt at a political career. Wasserstein’s constant tool regardless of plot or theme was wit. “There is a strength in being comedic,” she said. “It’s a way of getting on in the world, of taking the heat out of things. Humor is a life force.”

In one of her final interviews, Wasserstein recalls being wardrobe run crew at Yale with Stephen Graham (’79) for classmate William Ivey Long (’76), who had designed caftans for every character in a production of Twelfth Night. Her narration of the event displays the verbal acuity and charm she bequeathed to her characters and showered upon her audiences: “We were supposed to take care of the caftans. I told Stephen, ‘This is crazy; we can’t do this. We’re going to take William’s clothes to the dry cleaner because it’ll just be better. These are beautiful caftans.’ So I took them to the dry cleaner. I showed up to pick them up before the show, and the dry cleaner was closed. From that time on, William Ivey Long had me and Stephen painting Styrofoam balls gold.”

Juliana Canfield (’17) and Sebastian Arboleda (’17) in a Movement class in the Wendy Wasserstein Room at 149 York, Room 107. Juliana Canfield (’17) and Sebastian Arboleda (’17) in a Movement class in the Wendy Wasserstein Room at 149 York, Room 107.

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August Wilson

(April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005)

 

August Wilson

Celebrated African American playwright and poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August Wilson is the author of the American Century Cycle, a series of ten plays documenting the lives of African Americans in the United States in the twentieth century. Wilson considered his theater a vision of the future and a corrective to a white-centric view of Black history: “Writing our own history has been a very valuable tool, because if we’re going to be pointed toward a future, we must know our past.” Co-founder with Rob Penny of the Black Horizon Theater in 1968, in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Wilson championed work for and by people of color, and above all valued community, which he found at Yale Repertory Theatre and Yale School of Drama. The premieres of six of his plays at Yale Rep attest to a fruitful and long-standing collaboration. He remarked in an interview, “One of the most valuable things, I think, that has contributed to my development is the fact of having a home here at Yale Rep, and knowing that I can write a play and that the theater would be willing to produce it. I constantly work to reward the faith that has been placed in me.”

Lloyd Richards, School of Drama Dean and Yale Rep Artistic Director (1979–91), first worked with Wilson at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, which he also headed, before bringing him to Yale Rep. Their first collaboration here was Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in 1984. At Yale Rep, Wilson also met his wife Constanza Romero (’88), then a student who was assigned to design the costumes for The Piano Lesson (1987). All ten of Wilson’s American Century Cycle plays have been given Broadway productions. He is an inductee of the American Theater Hall of Fame and was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 1999. Wilson won Pulitzer Prizes for Fences in 1987 and The Piano Lesson in 1990—plays that interrogate filial legacies. As for his own legacies, Wilson influenced and continues to influence playwrights at the School. His papers stored at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library remain a treasured lure for artists and academics worldwide.

Carmen Morgan (Faculty) leading an artEquity workshop in the August Wilson Lounge. Carmen Morgan (Faculty) leading an artEquity workshop in the August Wilson Lounge.

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