MAKING SCENES: A Personal History of the Turbulent Years at Yale, 1966-1979 by Robert Brustein

MAKING SCENES: A Personal History of the Turbulent Years at Yale, 1966-1979

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Brustein sees the story of his 13 years at Yale (Dean/Director of the drama-school/repertory theater) as ""part of a larger social and cultural pattern."" But though there is indeed a string of Sixties/student/issue crises here--and though Brustein's own liberal stances undergo some rethinking--this painstakingly detailed account remains too in-house to have much general appeal. Asked to take over Yale's stodgy drama department by Kingman Brewster in 1966, critic-scholar-actor Brustein was reluctant; but, assured that he could shift to a conservatory structure and found an interdependent professional rep company, he and actress-wife Norma headed for New Haven--where he was hardly welcomed by a conservative, anti-Semitic establishment. And so began a decade of conflicts: between RB and the community (which disliked his abrasive productions and such unruly guests as the Living Theatre); between RB and the students (whom he ultimately stood up to, realizing that autocracy, though unattractive, was a necessity); between RB and commercialism; between RB and the critics (Clive Barnes especially); between RB and the faculty (Stella Adler left after a year, finding things ""too chaotic""); between RB and the budget; and, ultimately, between RB and new Yale president Giamatti--who dumped Brustein, but (as RB sees it) with slimy hypocrisy: ""We had all been mugged in New Haven."" Along with all of these painful moments, Brustein also takes pride in the results of Yale's acting program, gives production-by-production data for the Rep, and reiterates some of his familiar credos. But this memoir is personally involving only in the account of wife Norma's heart-attack death, and here there's an off-putting implication--that Brustein's enemies (and critic Richard Eder, who attacked Norma's acting and innuendo-ed about nepotism) were to blame. Essential reading, then, only for those with vital interest in drama-school issues; the wider theater readership will find this only spottily rewarding.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1981
Publisher: Random House