“The coronavirus pandemic demands of us that we slow down as never before, to care for our community while bringing our best selves to theater training,” said dean and artistic director James Bundy, deputy dean and managing director Victoria Nolan, associate dean Chantal Rodriguez, and assistant dean and general manager Kelvin Dinkins Jr. in a joint statement sent to all faculty, staff, students, and interns. “At the same time, the state of our nation and field calls us more urgently than ever to continuous work toward anti-racist pedagogy and practice, in order to prepare our graduates to lead in a more just and joyful profession for which we must altogether take responsibility now.”
In light of this decision, Yale is extending its three-year MFA program temporarily to include a fourth year, while the one-year Technical Internship program will be extended by one semester. The fourth year will be optional (though strongly encouraged) for second and third year students, and mandatory for the incoming class who will now graduate in 2024. The additional year/semester’s cost will be underwritten entirely by the School of Drama, with students in their fourth year (or third internship semester) receiving full tuition scholarships, living-expenses scholarships, and work-study employment totaling the cost of attendance.
The cost of this endeavor will be taken from the School of Drama’s $3.1 million of savings in its 2021 fiscal year budget that comes from the absence of productions, faculty and management employee salary freezes, a reduction of visiting faculty by 20 percent in 2020-21, and a freeze on new hires. According to their release, layoffs and furloughs of year-round or full-time seasonal staff or faculty are not being considered for 2020-21.
“We want to emphasize that curriculum and production planning for the coming year has slowed the pace of work, and created more space for reflection,” said leadership in their joint statement. “These adjustments offer our community an opportunity to continue training at a high level, while centering responsible self-care as an antidote to the exhaustion that many people regard as a field-wide norm and manifestation of a culture of white supremacy. Prior to COVID-19, our plan for next year called for spending only five days each week in production, up until technical rehearsals. Our adjusted plans call for similar restraint in pursuit of a new paradigm, and include deeper investment in the anti-racism work that must be at the heart of our training, here at Yale, within our profession, and across the country.”