Take 5: James Bundy, drama school dean

Take 5 offers a brief introduction to Yale faculty members in a Q&A format. The featured faculty member selects 5 out of 10 questions to answer. Any opinions shared are not necessarily those of YaleNews.

James Bundy, who has served for just over a decade as dean of the Yale School of Drama (YSD) and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre, directed the recent production of “Hamlet,” at the Yale Rep, as well as “All's Well That Ends Well,” “A Woman of No Importance,” “Death of a Salesman,” and “A Delicate Balance.” He has also directed productions at Great Lakes Theater Festival, The Acting Company, California Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and The Juilliard School Drama Division. He was the recipient of the Connecticut Critics Circle's Tom Killen Award for extraordinary contributions to Connecticut professional theatre in 2007. Under his direction, the Yale Rep has produced more than 20 world, American, and regional premieres, five of which have been honored by the Connecticut Critics Circle with the award for best production of the year, and two of which have been Pulitzer Prize finalists. He currently serves on the board of directors of Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization for nonprofit theatre.

What scholarly/research project are you working on now?

I have begun doing research for a production of “Richard III” that I am directing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2014. It’s the second longest play in the canon, and therefore a big task in itself, but it also completes a cycle of four plays that begin with the three parts of “Henry VI”— plot-heavy plays that most audience members will not have seen. Shakespeare’s view of history and scholarly perspectives on history are also very different, so there’s a tremendous amount of fascinating reading to do.

What important lesson(s) have you learned from your students?

I teach a text analysis class for first- and second-year actors in the Master of Fine Arts program. Every year, they make interpretive choices about plays by Ibsen and Chekhov; choices that are beautifully inspired by the text, utterly compelling, and totally surprising. They teach me that bravery and commitment and originality are endlessly renewable resources, and that I should always check my prejudices at the door, so that I can see what they have made, and not only what I am looking for, in the work.

What is your most treasured classroom memory — either as a student or a teacher?

Ming Cho Lee’s scenic design class is certainly the finest course I ever took. He’s a brilliant designer, but also a brilliant reader of plays who inspires to students to speak with fluency and originality about and through design. As a director in the class, I was way behind the skill curve of my designer classmates — in the fourth week, Ming looked at me kindly and said, “I am going to say that you do not ever have to draw anything for this class anymore,” relieving me and everyone else in the room. Just being a part of the discussions gave me more tools for collaboration than I can count.

What do you do for fun?

I love games of all kinds: tennis, golf, volleyball, miniature golf, dibble-dabble, bowling, poker, Settlers of Cataan, Words with Friends, Scramble with Friends, board games, party games. In the last year or so, I’ve learned to play Euchre with students at YSD’s Friday Night Beers.

What are you reading for pleasure?

Charles D. Ellis’s “What It Takes.” It’s a study of great organizations, what made them great, and how to avoid certain kinds of disaster.

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