Why we left Grad School:
My new wife and I entered Yale in 1964; it was a dream that failed.
After two years in graduate study in Chemistry, my wife revealed she was dreadfully unhappy with her prospects. She was being forced to select a research adviser in a field in which she had no interest and in which she saw no prospect for a career she could enjoy. (This was the 1960’s.)
I was unhappy too. The Sterling Professor of Playwriting, John Gassner, had a heart attack shortly after I arrived to begin studies (he was out for the year) and at the beginning of my second year he had a stroke and died. The students were in rebellion (this was the mid-sixties, in a run-up to clashes in academia over the Vietnam War). Yale replaced retiring Dean Canfield with a hot-shot rebel, Brustein, who promised to bring change and new artistic spirit to a stodgy community. After a short tenure, Harvard bought him from Yale with the opportunity to form an independent theatre in Cambridge, affiliated with their University.
I met three people I respected and admired. Alois Nagler, Sterling Professor of Theatre History, was an admirable scholar of the traditional type. Nichos Psycharapoulos, professor of Directing, the most creative professor I met there. After my production of Houseman’s “Fragment of a Greek Tragedy,” he urged me to leave the playwriting curriculum and become a directing student. I chose not to do that. Our paths crossed a short time before his death; I saw him in Times Square, emaciated and haggard. The third person was most important, David James, author of “The Dream of Learning” and “The Dream of Prospero.” He had recently retired as Chancellor of Bristol University (where he founded its School of Drama) and was visiting in the Graduate School at Yale to say farewell to his American family and to meet with Susanne Langer, one of my favorite philosophers of art and epistemology.
When I discussed my uncertain future with David, he offered me the British perspective on education and its differences from that in America. His essential point was this: the academic life was then so impoverished financially and lacking in intellectual and emotional support that British Profs always urged their best students to get out, to find some way of being productive in the world, and to have fun. Only later, maybe seven to ten years or so, should one return to Academia if it were impossible for you, as the person you are, to be happy in any other endeavor. I took his advice very seriously and followed it. Still do.