Argh. Money is tight in this business! As one with a salary, I have less right to complain than most, but when I have to choose between attending the ATHE conference to be on my dear friend’s awesomely named Guerrilla Turg Panel and paying for a ticket home for Thanksgiving, all the while battling Bank of America over a $20 monthly maintenance fee that they decided to start after their April audit and trying to plan a wedding that complies with our artistically limited budget, it can be frustrating.
These are the questions my buddy is asking:
1). How/Where did you learn how to be a dramaturg?
2). What qualifies a person to be a dramaturg?
3). What does a dramaturg do?
4). What texts, exercises, and/or experiences would you consider core to your dramaturgical training?
5). What is the minimum training required to be a dramaturg (coursework? experience? degree?)
And my answers if I had been there (I think she’s going to read them? Hopefully not verbatim):
1) I’m still learning to be a dramaturg, and I don’t say that to be glib or as a cop out. I think dramaturgy is very much a show by show, project by project, role that you have to figure it out in the room on your feet. That is why it is so enjoyable: it can’t get old because it’s reborn every gig. But I got a very good basis in college and only partially as part of the theater department or bumming around with the theater crew. I tell people that I accidentally majored in dramaturgy because I majored in English Lit and minored in psych, general art (which was really drawing and woodcut printing), and theater. All of that comes into play. Of course my playwriting courses with Carter Lewis were instrumental, as was the dramaturgy course with DJ Hopkins. And, honestly, waiting tables for five years at Blueberry Hill, helped me a lot. Serving trains you to be cater to the needs of someone else; humility is essential to dramaturgy because it is NEVER about you. It is less about you than anybody in the rehearsal room. Serving also
trains you to listen and know what people want before they even order. Every dramaturg should wait tables for at least a couple years. I’m sure most will have to anyway to pay rent.
2) Trust. Did you know that you do not need to have a law degree or to have been a judge to be on the Supreme Court. Anyone can, legally
speaking. Same with a dramaturg. Anyone can be a dramaturg, so long as you have the trust of a playwright or the trust of a director. How you
earn that trust, however, is the tricky part (just like earning the trust of whatever President nominates a Justice). I am not sure what
“qualifies” a person to be a dramaturg, but these are the skillsets I think are useful in order of priority: 1) communication. 2) humility.
3) adaptability. 4) creativity. 5) The ability to discern what is truly valuable (i.e. a damn good filter so you don’t dump all your
research or all your opinions on a director or a cast just to show how hard you’ve been working; see also humility). 6) research skills. 7)
writing skills. N) an understanding of theater, and this is not number 8 because how knowledgeable a dramaturg needs to be about theater–the
craft of writing plays, the history of drama, and what is currently happening in the theater world–depends on the project
3) A dramaturg does anything a director or playwright needs him/her to do to help articulate a play, to themselves, to an artistic team, to a
cast, and to an audience.
4) Ugh. I don’t know. I’m getting tired. 😦 I think who I AM is the core to how I dramaturg. Everything I have ever done and experienced
feeds into how I read a script, listen to a play, how I craft a note, what I say to a playwright. I can think of a few specifics that sound
good (e.g. helping EJC with the suicide play was huge; watching Liz Engelman work in the Hotchner festival; turging two shows in Chicago
simultaneously), but they are no more instrumental than teaching Writing 1 for 4 semesters, or taking Psych 100, or talking to this guy
named Jonathon at a bar when I was stuck on what to do after the first day of workshopping DEMONS.
5) None. Goes back to #2. It’s about trust, not about training.