Discovering the Yale School of Drama

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Yale University has not made a sound name for itself for no reason: it has imposed high standards of quality on all its faculties, degrees and programs, and its drama school makes no exception to this, being one of the most prestigious acting schools in the country. Despite being focused mostly on the theatrical aspects, it has also been the school of choice for numerous famous film and television actors, ex-alumni including the likes of Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Lupita Nyong’o and John Turturro.

History of the Yale School of Drama

Backing this reputation is of course a long tradition, akin to the institution it belongs to. The Yale Dramatic Association (commonly known as “Dramat” was established in 1900 by Yale students as is the second-oldest such association in the United States. The success it had by producing classic European plays from the likes of Shakespeare and Camus led to the university establishing its first Department of Drama in 1924, alongside the construction of a university theater.

The Department was then further reorganized in 1955 as a professional school within Yale University, and in 1966 the Yale Repertory Theater was also established. In the recent decades, the school has had its emphasis set on production of newly-surfaced plays from important playwrights.

Entry to Yale
The entrance to Yale

What can students expect from college life at the YSD?

Those interested about student life at the Yale School of Drama should know that it is scheduled in such a way as to combine theoretical courses with practical work. Students will work at the Yale Repertory Theatre and some may also choose to help out at the Yale Cabaret.

The classes are always held in the morning, with the number of hours depending on specialization and year. In any case, there are no classes after 2 PM, as that period is reserved for rehearsal time at the Yale Repertory Theatre. These cannot last over 11 PM; however, students can choose to continue rehearsals on either their own or different productions at the Yale Cabaret. Besides attending productions made by their colleagues throughout the school year, Yale students can also choose to engage into sports or attend different events made by students at other Yale professional schools.

YSD Degree Programs

The Yale School of Drama has a number of different degree programs, ranging from undergraduate all the way up to doctorate, but offers no bachelor program. A Yale degree is surely seen favorably upon; however, noting the domain, degrees really matter less than pure skill in landing opportunities, at least if we’re not talking about critics and/or playwrights.

Certificate in Drama program

The Certificate in Drama degree program can be taken by students who don’t have an undergraduate degree at another college. It’s basically an almost identical program to those studying for the master degree – the YSD site states that there is no difference between the two – but the main divergent point is that graduates will not be able to apply for the doctorate program, unlike those who take on the master program. It is available for specializations such as directing, acting, design, play-writing, technical design and production, sound design or stage management.

Yale School of drama theater performance
Show scene from the Yale School of Drama

Master of Fine Arts program

The Master of Fine Arts (or MFA) program is a three year program reserved for students which hold an undergraduate/bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. The course requires residency either in the Yale campus or in the nearby area during the whole three years of school (of course, this those extend during holidays/outside the school year). Areas of study for the MFA degree include: Acting, Technical Design and Production, Play-writing, Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism, Design, Stage Management, Theater Management and Sound Design.

Doctor of Fine Arts program

This is not really a program within itself, but more of a continuation upon the MFA degree aimed at obtaining the highest distinction available for arts. It is reserved only for graduates of the MFA Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism program (as they are the only ones which will likely benefit from the degree. To attain a DFA degree, qualified students must pass all MFA examinations and will then have to write and present a dissertation of distinction on a certain subjects, which needs to be approved by a special committee beforehand.

The Yale Cabaret

The Yale Cabaret is a somewhat distinctive and neat idea for YSD students who wish to pursue extracurricular activities. It’s based exclusively on allowing students to produce and operate the location as to present 18 productions per year to paying audiences, and it’s the choice of many outside of classes and mandatory rehearsals. Being independent from the programs themselves, many students opt to assist in the production in areas outside of their own – for example, actors can choose to design, singers can choose to direct, designers can choose to write and so on and so forth. It’s quite of a neat way to gain a more overall view of the different elements which go into a production and to gain some expertise into other areas (especially useful for directors).

YSD application process

The application process to the Yale School of Drama is off-limits to high school seniors and starts in September each year for the following academic year. It normally has deadlines situated between December the year before starting the programs and February in the starting year.

It is a quite straightforward process consisting of an exclusively online application. It will require you to create an account on the Yale platform, and you can take as much as you need from its start to gather everything necessary for completing it (providing you won’t send the completed version after the deadline). There is a $110 application fee which you will be prompted to pay by credit card before you can send the full submission.

Tuition and expenses

Let’s talk about how much you’ll be looking at paying when for a cycle of studies at the Yale School of Drama. The tuition fee per year is specified right now to be $27,250; the only exceptions being special programs such as the Technical Internship program which is $13,625. On the Yale site you can also find out that you will also spend between $250 and $2,625 on books, supplies and other school related expenses. Living expenses will also amount to nearly $16,000, so you’re looking at somewhere between $43,000 and $46,000 per school year.

This is an amount which fits into the mold of acclaimed acting schools; the well-known Juilliard School for example estimates overall costs at about $55,000. At the end of the day, it is quite a massive investment made for the idea of having the best possible background towards your acting career.

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