Yale Musical Theater of the Air

Yale Musical Theater of the Air

It all began with Cole Porter, Class of 1913. To celebrate the Centennial of his graduation from Yale, a group of passionate musical theater alumni dreamed up a year of Porter events, starting with a concert presentation of his masterpiece Kiss Me, Kate. Conductor David Charles Abell ’81 had spent more than five years lovingly and painstakingly restoring the original Broadway orchestrations, and wanted to give them an outing. So we recruited professional theater alums spanning thirty years–all of them volunteers--to play the lead roles and direct, design, and produce the show, and we joined forces with the Shen Curriculum for Musical Theater and with Yale University Bands to populate the singing ensemble and 47 piece orchestra. With moral and financial support from the Administration and blessed by myriad favors large and small–from artist housing in residential college guest suites to props kindly lent by Long Wharf Theater–we mounted a sold-out production at the University Theater that the Hartford Courant named one of the Top Ten Theatrical events of 2013 in Connecticut. We had invented something special, we realized in the happy haze that followed, that should be continued.

Thus was born Yale Musical Theater of the Air (YMTA), an initiative that brings together musical theater alumni from Yale College, the School of Drama, and the School of Music with current students on the same path. The alumni return to Yale for a week as volunteers to help mount a professional quality concert version of a classic American musical, complete with dialogue and live sound effects created by foley artists in the style of an old-fashioned radio play.

The Yale Alumni Association provides administrative, marketing, and bookkeeping support (led by the multi-talented Johnson Flucker ’80) the Shen Curriculum for Musical Theater, coordinated by Daniel Egan MPhil ’84, supplies the remarkably well-trained and passionate student performers you see before you; and Thomas C. Duffy’s University Bands lends the core talent pool of instrumentalists, large musical instruments, and rehearsal spaces for our mammoth orchestra. With these in-kind contributions, plus the revenue from ticket sales, we hope to break even. Any “profits”— should we be so lucky! — will be returned to support the study and practice of musical theater at Yale.

Mark Dollhopf ’77, Director of the Alumni Association, describes YMTA as the “perfect storm” of what makes a university great:

  • For students, it offers a chance to work directly with professionals, to bring together the often separate worlds of undergraduate and professional schools, and to familiarize themselves with the canon of Broadway’s Golden Age.  
  • For alumni working in the musical theater profession, it is an opportunity to return to campus and share their expertise and knowledge in order to mentor the next generation of musical theater artists, and to forge cross-generational relationships with alumni in their field.
  • For Yale, it is an opportunity to showcase its astonishing depth of alumni, staff, and faculty talent — starting with Cole Porter ’13 — on its home turf in New Haven, where so much musical theater history was made.

By the way, one of My Fair Lady’s most enthusiastic fans was Cole Porter '13 himself, who used to attend the show every week for the sheer joy of it. I suspect he’s here today, cheering us on.

Amber Edwards ’82
Founding Producer, YMTA