Creativity Transfer

April 7, 2014

Last night, Marta and I had the pleasure of attending the Broadway opening night of Will Eno’s “The Realistic Joneses” at the Lyceum Theatre. Some of you may have been lucky enough to catch the play when it premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2012. The Rep commissioned the play, with development and production support provided by Yale’s innovative Binger Center for New Theatre. At that time, the New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood described it as “tender, funny, [and] terrific.”

After seeing last night’s show, I am happy to report that it is still all of those things, and I expect the Broadway version of the play will garner similar positive reviews from the critics. Aside from the excitement of watching the show itself, it was great to share the joy and energy of opening night with Vicki Nolan, managing director of the Yale Rep, who reminded me a little bit of a proud parent at a school pageant—a very fancy school pageant, to be sure, with slightly better production values and softer seats!

In the car on the way home, as I reflected on the evening, we passed by the Darien service plaza on I-95, home of one of the growing number of Cheeseboy restaurant franchises in the Northeast. It was a little late for grilled cheese (and I had this note to write), so we did not stop. But I love Cheeseboy sandwiches, and not just because the company was started by a Yale entrepreneur, Michael Inwald, SOM ’10.

You may wonder where I’m going with this (or perhaps whether or not I stayed too long at the cast party). But seeing the Cheeseboy sign got me thinking about the many ways in which ideas of all kinds are conceived and nurtured at Yale. Although we may think of entrepreneurial effort as being largely limited to the realms of science and technology, I believe that, at Yale, inspiration, creativity, and entrepreneurship privilege equally science and the arts.

Yale entrepreneurs have helped to create everything from Cheeseboy to Pinterest (co-founded by Ben Silbermann, ’03) to a new, long-lasting, natural antacid (TummyZen, conceived in a Yale professor’s research lab and marketed by a team of SOM students). The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute website provides terrific information on the entrepreneurial activities of our faculty, students, and staff. But Yale creates an environment where it is possible—or perhaps even probable—for Yalies to venture beyond technology transfer to engage in creativity transfer, whether it is a beloved William Butler Yeats poem set to an original vocal arrangement (“When You Are Old” arranged by John Kelley ’86 and performed for more than 20 years), or a dance performance that recaptures the vitality of the choreography of Merce Cunningham, to student-curated exhibitions at Yale’s art galleries (by the way, go see “Jazz Lives” at the YUAG and “Focus on Art: Wales” at the YCBA; I hear they are great).

From my perspective, wherever you look, from Chapel Street to Broadway (in New Haven and New York) to a service area on I-95, you will find Yale thinking, Yale creativity, and Yale inspiration. Seek them out and celebrate them.