Student Blog: Have You Heard of A Dramaturg?

A deep dive into the invaluable role the dramaturg plays within a production

By: Sep. 14, 2021
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Student Blog: Have You Heard of A Dramaturg?

What is a dramaturg? This is the first question I encounter whenever I tell someone about my time working as a dramaturg on my school's Fall Main Stage production of Oil by Ella Hickson. I have been involved with this production since May, and am so excited to see all of my efforts come together throughout the rehearsal process. I wish that dramaturgs were a more well known role within production teams because they work as script and audience advocates to serve the story.

I decided to become a dramaturg after working on a new piece last winter. Part of the process of a premiere piece requires much script analysis and research done by the cast to understand the new work. After taking such a deep dive into the script, I realized how much I enjoy dissecting scripts and building the world of the play.

One of the largest parts of my role is creating an actor's packet that helps to inform the cast during the rehearsal process. This can include a playwright bio, context, setting, as well as a glossary to define terms within the show as well as draw parallels throughout the entire production. I love how a dramaturg works analytically as well as artistically, working within a historical as well as a theatrical context.

As a support system for the entire production team, a dramaturg works to ensure that everything put into the process is in service of the story. I facilitate the discovery of the world of the play and help the team come to a consensus with how we want to tell this important story. Throughout my time as a dramaturg I have spoken with the original dramaturg of my play as well as the playwright herself to gather as much information as possible. I was fascinated by talking with Jenny Worton and Ella Hickson, and gained such a deeper understanding of the show and my efforts in service of the production.

These past few months have been quite fun researching the play myself or working solely with the production team, but I am looking forward to working with the cast as well now that rehearsals have begun. I am glad that I can be there for them to answer any questions and help them establish the context of the play in their own minds. A dramaturg's work is vital to an actor's process of finding windows into playing their character from new perspectives they discover to topics they can relate to their own lives.

I highly recommend that those who enjoy history, english, and theater, work as a dramaturg. This is a more scholarly part of the theatrical process and it aids the storytelling unlike anything else. Dramaturgs live in the world of the play from the production's beginning to its end and work from the perspective of the audience as well as the actors. Though an often overlooked and unknown part of a production team, a dramaturg's work greatly aids the rehearsal process and telling of the for the actors and audience.

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