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The term “dramaturgy” has become a bit of a buzzword in the theatre community, and I’m sure it has some people scratching their heads. When I attended the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) conference in New York last June, I heard someone use the term, “creative midwife”, to describe a dramaturg. I find that description both appealing and accurate. Dramaturgs can be helpful for guiding a director, writer, or artist in general through their process. We ask questions, provide research, and help an artist see the bigger picture of their work. Sometimes we just hold their hand and whisper encouragement. It still sounds a little vague, doesn’t it? Fair enough.
I was first introduced to Dramaturgy during my undergrad at Simon Fraser. At three points during the semester, we wrote papers titled, “What is Dramaturgy?” in order to apply what we had learned. As a small rebellion, I titled my final paper, “Why Do We Need a Dramaturg When We Can All Work Dramaturgically?” I wrote about how a dramaturg’s job is to remind everyone to work dramaturgically. That is, maybe, to work from a point of child-like curiosity and exploration. Wouldn’t it be smart then to cut out the middle-man and agree to work that way in the first place? In reality, it’s very easy to get absorbed in your process and obsess over small details to the detriment of the production. A dramaturg is an outside eye, a friendly face, and a gentle reminder of why you started the project in the first place.
After writing that paper, maybe it’s a little ironic that I’m now finishing my MA in Dramaturgy. I’m writing about the methodologies of dramatic adaptation, or how exactly to turn a book into a play. I found a formula, and, like a scientist, I tested it out with my own adaptation. What I found is that the formula is the most helpful for a dramaturg, and maybe less helpful for a playwright. What I mean is that a playwright needs to dive into their process the way that compels them, and a dramaturg can guide them along offering questions, contextual research, script analysis, and as much caffeine as needed in order to make sure the playwright’s vision is coming through the way they intended.
So, why am I talking about dramaturgy today, you ask? Well, the GCTC has graciously offered to host the Ottawa chapter of The Dramaturgy Open Office Hours project. Started by Jeremy Stoller in New York City, the project has been designed for playwrights, actors, directors, devisers, and any other theatre artists who feel they could benefit from speaking with a dramaturg. Artists are encouraged to stop by with questions about research, project brainstorming, play structure, script submission, development processes, text analysis, theatrical canon; personal statements; or simply to discuss their work with some interested colleagues.
The first date in Ottawa is November 9 and will run every Monday at 2pm until December 14th. I’ve arranged different guest dramaturgs, such as GCTC Artistic Director Eric Coates, to join me each week. With that, I’m inviting you all to come join me in the GCTC lobby starting November 9th to chat and see what all this dramaturgy stuff is about!