Tag Archives: dramaturgy

Link Roundup! – 10/9/15

Link Roundups feature articles and bits of internet goodness that our dramaturgy team digs up. If you find something you want to send our way, drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter!


Huntington Theatre Company artistic director Peter DuBois, left, and managing director Michael Maso in front of the BU Theatre.  Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Huntington Theatre Company artistic director Peter DuBois, left, and managing director Michael Maso in front of the BU Theatre. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The Boston Globe has a story about this week’s big news regarding the partnership between Boston University and the Huntington Theatre:

After 33 years, Boston University and the Huntington Theatre Company are parting ways, and the university is putting the BU Theatre up for sale, effective immediately. For the highly regarded Huntington, which just two years ago won a Tony Award for regional theater, the dissolution of the partnership with BU ushers in a period of uncertainty.


Early career director Lucy Gram’s musings in HowlRound about life as an “emerging” artist are great:

Remember, as difficult as it is to make a life in the theatre, it is something I am lucky to be pursuing. What I am pursuing isn’t a career, or “success,” or a title. It’s an artistic practice. It’s a lens through which to look at life; a platform on which to ask questions about the world we know and create visions of worlds we have so far only imagined.

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Link Roundup! – 9/4/15

Link Roundups feature articles and bits of internet goodness that our dramaturgy team digs up. If you find something you want to send our way, drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter!


 From left, Carlo Albán, Jack Willis, Kevin Kenerly, Terri McMahon, Kimberly Scott and K. T. Vogt in “Sweat.” Credit Jenny Graham

From left, Carlo Albán, Jack Willis, Kevin Kenerly, Terri McMahon, Kimberly Scott and K. T. Vogt in “Sweat.” Credit Jenny Graham

This New York Times story on Oregon Shakespeare Festival highlights their new work program and diversity initiatives:

As for diversifying the audience and drawing in more minorities, progress has been made, but it’s a slow process. At some shows I have seen, like Ms. Nottage’s “Sweat,” I couldn’t help but notice that the people onstage were far more ethnically diverse than those in the audience.

“I know that the largest diversity comes from our student audiences,” Mr. Rauch said, while admitting that the theater has a ways to go in terms of reaching out to ethnically diverse audiences. To that end, he and other members of the staff created an Audience Development Manifesto in 2010 meant to address the problem. This document noted that at the time minorities — aside from students — represented just 10 percent of the festival’s audiences; since then it has moved up to 16 percent. It was in 2013 that the company made its website bilingual.


This Guardian post looks at the rise in visibility and training of artists with disabilities in the UK, and ways to continue making theatre accessible:

I want disabled artists to be able to make work that matters to them and connects with an audience, however that audience is defined. I want to see personal stories, work that addresses the experiences of being disabled, and work that’s just anything a disabled artist wants to make. I want to see very divergent points of view – from those who want to celebrate being different and move away from any sense of disability, to those who absolutely identify as disabled.

I would like to suggest a view that draws on the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat, where something can appear to be both itself and its opposite. Sometimes disability arts might need to be seen as a single entity – a movement rich in diversity. At other times it might need separating out, for example when delving into the aesthetics of the work of some learning disabled artists, where the discourse might need to develop differently than that which has already evolved around work made by some artists with physical and/or sensory disabilities.

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#LinkRoundup! – 12/5/14

Link Roundups feature articles and bits of internet goodness that our dramaturgy team digs up. If you find something you want to send our way, drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter!


The diversity building initiatives and programs featured in this Boston Globe article called 12 Ideas for Making Boston More Inclusive are varied and certainly worth reading up on — check out number 11 for a nice shout-out to C1!

Scott Bakal for The Boston Globe

Scott Bakal for The Boston Globe


This Love Letter to Dramaturgs, penned by playwright Sarah Ruhl, is a good look at the writer’s perspective during the development process:

We need you to be publicly articulate about our plays when we feel dumb about them, so we can do the more private, blunted and blind task of writing. We need you to be as articulate about unconventional structure as you are about conventional structure. We need you to fight the mania for clarity and help create a mania for beauty instead. We need you to ask: is the play too clear? Is it predictable? Is this play big enough? Is it about something that matters?

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Since we produced the three plays in the DISPLACED HINDU GODS TRILOGY in two spaces in the BCA Plaza Theatre, we were able to fully transform the lobby into a fun, interactive, informative space.

  • – Video stations with clips that tell the stories of intersex individuals
  • – Re-mythologized shrines
  • – Cosmic audience response board with the following questions:
    • BRAHMAN/I: What stories helped shape your identity, or gave you insight into who you are?
    • KALKI: What happened when you stepped out of the circle of protection?
    • SHIV: What have you had to destroy or leave behind in order to move forward?
    • TRILOGY: What else do you want to tell us?
  • – Modernist Indian (magnetic) poetry board
  • – Contextual video wall

Check out the photo album from opening night to see audience members and the creative team exploring and celebrating in the lobby!








Boston Globe: Prominence of Dramaturgy in Theatre

In this Boston Globe article, writer Joel Brown interviews our very own Ilana Brownstein, Jessie Baxter, and Shawn LaCount in addition to other prominent dramaturgs in the Boston theatre such as A. Nora Long, Charles Haugland, and Ryan McKittrick about the rising importance of dramaturgy in theatre, especially in the Boston theatre scene and the creation of new work. Company One playwright Kirsten Greenidge is also interviewed in this article regarding dramaturgy on Splendor. Here is the link to the article, and the full text is quoted below.

The posters and programs for Company One’s “Splendor” last fall offered three credits where there are usually two:

“A WORLD PREMIERE by Kirsten Greenidge

Directed by Shawn LaCount

Dramaturgy by Ilana M. Brownstein”

Playwrights and directors always get prominent credits, but a dramaturg almost never does. The billing for Brownstein was one outward sign of a backstage shift in Boston theater.

“The role of the dramaturg was, really, we saw it as a third collaborator,” said LaCount, Company One’s artistic director.

But it’s a job that’s at best dimly familiar to the audience. Partly that’s because the role of the dramaturg changes from show to show and company to company. Dictionaries broadly define dramaturgy as the art of dramatic representation. Even dramaturgs say the job is not easy to explain. In today’s theater, they do anything from mundane script management to researching a play’s historical background, from suggesting changes in a play’s structure to arranging post-show discussions with the audience.

“You ask 10 dramaturgs what they do, and you’ll get 17 answers,” said Brownstein, whose title at Company One is director of new work.

From a small-company production like “Splendor” to the Broadway-bound “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” dramaturgs have been shaping much of what Boston theater audiences see. LaCount and others say that a dramaturg is especially valuable to a new play, and that’s why dramaturgs have a higher profile here lately. “I think Boston is becoming a player in new work in the American theater, (and) it’s been a while,” said LaCount. “I think the role of the dramaturg is a lot more noticeable and valuable.”

The Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas will hold their annual conference here in June. “The theme of the conference is looking to the future to see where we are going,” says conference chairwoman Magda Romanska, an assistant professor at Emerson College and editor of an upcoming dramaturgy textbook. “I think it’s a really good moment for the field.”

Playwrights are artists and rightly protective of their creations. But Greenidge said she was happy to have Brownstein’s input during the development of “Splendor,” which is built around a Thanksgiving weekend and centers on ties of family and community.

“One thing Ilana brought up was, ‘Nobody ever has Thanksgiving dinner in your play — what does that mean?” Greenidge said. By the time of the premiere, the playwright added a brief, dreamlike scene in which all the characters come to the table to get a piece of pie before dispersing again.

Dramaturgy (it rhymes with clergy, though “dramaturg” is pronounced with a hard G) dates to Europe in the 1700s, when the first dramaturgs were sort of in-house critics. Formal dramatic structure was long their main concern. Now institutional dramaturgs may be involved in selecting plays for a company to produce; they often carry the job title of literary manager. Production dramaturgs work on a specific show. Some dramaturgs are freelance, some on staff. Duties and titles overlap.

In the modern era, dramaturgs are known mainly for researching the context of a play to ensure an accurate production, and to provide background information to cast and designers. They have long been considered “the in-house bookworm,” as one joked.

But even that role is not necessarily dull. “Today I’m reading all about S&M for ‘Venus in Fur,’ ” said Charles Haugland, dramaturg at the Huntington Theatre Company.

Dramaturgs enter the field in various ways, but few have had as consistent a path as Ryan McKittrick, director of artistic programs/dramaturg at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. “I sort of grew up in this theater,” he said.

McKittrick was an undergraduate at Harvard when he fell in love with ART’s work, studied dramaturgy at the ART Institute, and has worked with the company since he graduated in 2000. He works on projects developed sometimes over years at the theater, including 2011’s “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” under artistic director Diane Paulus that made it to Broadway.

“When I was an undergraduate, I didn’t really know what dramaturgy was,” McKittrick said. “It provides an opportunity for someone who loves academic research but also loves the theater and wants to pursue a life in professional theater. And within the theater you get to do many, many different things.”

Most dramaturgs write program notes and organize post-show discussions. Their quest: “How do we deepen an audience’s connection to the material?” said A. Nora Long, a dramaturg whose job title is associate artistic director at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.

On productions, a dramaturg may also be responsible for “moment-to-moment rehearsal stuff” that requires a deep knowledge of the script, Brownstein said. “Splendor” follows numerous characters in a fictional Boston suburb over decades, jumping back and forth in time. The cast rehearsed the scenes in the order in which they appear in the play, not in the order in which they happen. So the scene they were working on at any given time might hinge on developments not shown until later.

“So it was one of my jobs for every scene to be the person who was like, ‘Context! Here’s what you need to know,’ ” Brownstein said.

Playwright Walt McGough says he’s always happy to have a dramaturg on one of his productions because they can solve thorny problems. When his “Priscilla Dreams the Answer” was in rehearsal with Fresh Ink Theatre a couple of years ago, he and director Melanie Garber got along great except for “one moment where we just kept talking past each other,” McGough said via e-mail.

The issue on which they deadlocked: when to start playing a Belle and Sebastian song in the play’s final moments. Garber wanted to start at the beginning of the last scene, while McGough wanted to wait until the blackout, he explained.

“We were wasting time trying to explain to each other why one choice was right and the other was wrong,” McGough said. “The dramaturg, Jessie Baxter, was sitting and patiently watching us run around in circles. She spoke up and recommended splitting the difference, and beginning the cue about halfway through the scene, so that it underscored the final moments but didn’t kick in fully until the play had ended.”

That solved the problem perfectly, he said, and exemplified the value of having a dramaturg who “observes the entirety of a play and its production, instead of just one aspect, and makes sure that everything that happens is being done in service to the same viewpoint.”

Baxter also “dramaturgs” for Company One and is working on its production of Annie Baker’s “The Flick,” opening at the Modern Theater in February.

The job all depends on the play, the circumstances and who’s involved. Dramaturgs can be less needed on a well-known work, especially with an experienced director. “If we’re doing ‘Private Lives’ with [director] Maria Aitken, she’s done 12 Noel Coward plays, she doesn’t need me,” said the Huntington’s Haugland.

And there are some playwrights and directors who aren’t so enthused about what dramaturgs have to say. Playwright Richard Nelson gave a speech in New York in 2007 in which he deplored a “culture of ‘development’ ” in which playwrights are thought to need help to do their work.

Boston dramaturgs say it’s often the older generation that has an issue with their growing role.

“I have some people in my family who are theater practitioners,” said Long, “and when I told my uncle I was studying dramaturgy, he was like, ‘As a director, what would I possibly need a dramaturg for? I can do research.’

“But the thing you cannot do is be another pair of eyes,” Long said. “I think the best dramaturgical relationships are about finding a collaborator who knows as much about what you are attempting to do onstage as you do, but who is going to look at it from a different perspective.”

As devised theater and new technologies become more common, younger playwrights grow more comfortable with new kinds of collaboration, said Romanska, who had just returned from a theater festival in Krakow filled with experimental work. “The rigid division of roles, director/dramaturg/playwright, becomes more and more blurred as people move across boundaries,” she said.