Tuesdays with Florie
Will Gaines ’22 checks in with Florie Seery, new Associate Dean/Managing Director.
When I first meet Florie Seery—the newly appointed Managing Director of Yale Repertory Theatre and Associate Dean of Yale School of Drama—she is starting her fifth back-to-back Zoom meeting of the day. Fresh from 15 years as the General Manager at Manhattan Theatre Club, Florie has been systematically introducing herself to students, staff, and faculty since her first day on July 1. “I've been really struck by how supportive everyone is,” Florie shares, “how incredibly willing and kind they are, and how prepared they are to reflect on their experience at the School in an open and honest way.”
Speaking from her home in the Hudson Valley, where she has been sheltering since March, Florie is energized by her new post at Yale in spite of the limitations imposed by COVID-19. She was buoyed by the virtual presentations of the Carlotta Festival productions this past May, commenting that “the talent on display, the risk taking, the zest of the students’ exploration of this new media” renewed her faith in the possibility of Zoom drama. And though she wishes (as we all do) that the YSD community could “be together, boots on the ground, working shoulder to shoulder,” the shining opportunities that first made her new position so attractive, have not dimmed. Having been the beneficiary of expert mentorship, Florie relishes the opportunity to extend that mentorship to a new generation of theater professionals. As a passionate supporter of new work development at MTC, she is eager to lend her expertise to members of the Yale community as they experiment with new forms this year. Florie is particularly inspired by YSD’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion and the development of anti-racist practices throughout the School and the Rep.
Apart from an early stint in a public relations firm that championed computers and copiers (“I just thought: There's got to be more to it than this. This is never going to quench my soul.”) Florie has made her life in the theater. A true font of theatrical history (ask her about working with some of the “late, greats” like Robert Whitehead, Madeline Kahn, or Wendy Wasserstein ’76), Florie lights up when speaking about the plays and artists she loves. She waxes poetic about collaborating with Tarell Alvin McCraney ’07 (Faculty) and Lynn Nottage ’89 (Former Faculty) and the experience of bringing Choir Boy and Ruined to the New York stage. She recalls bravura performances by Cherry Jones and Janet McTeer—the smallest details of which remain seared in her memory decades later—and reminisces about the “revelatory” 1982 production of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls at the Public that made her reconsider what was possible in the theater.
When the conversation turns to theater at Yale, Florie raves about the Rep’s 2011 production of Belleville by Amy Herzog ’07, YC ’00, calling it “ahead of its time.” She is consistently astounded when she reflects upon the exceptional artists who have trained at the School and worked on the Rep’s stages. By way of explanation, she shares: “When the announcement of my appointment was released, I got a wave of warm, congratulatory emails from major players in the industry, but I couldn’t figure out why I was hearing from this group of folks first. I was stumped. I finally realized that what they all had in common was that they were alums of YSD. It was a vast array of terrific people, and the magical thing is that they were all connected through Yale.”
As Florie prepares to transition to her seventh (and far from final) Zoom meeting of the day, she stops to check in with me about how I am faring during these uncertain times. After listening thoughtfully, she offers a response that fills me with confidence in her leadership and hope for the year to come. “I am thinking about the ways in which we can take care of our YSD community during this time,” Florie begins. “Everyone wants to be a good student and a good professional and a good parent and a good partner, and it's hard to be good at all those things at the same time even under normal circumstances. So, I think our work is to be mindful of the mental and emotional health of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as we reexamine what keeps us steady and what makes us happy. That is what's on my mind right now as I start my time at Yale.”