What on earth is Dramaturgy?
I got to discuss this elusive but crucial aspect of theatremaking with a couple of exceptionally qualified people, who really, really love it. Anthea Williams is the Associate Director (Literary) with Belvoir Street Theatre and James Evans is the Resident Artist for Education with Bell Shakespeare.
The Dramaturg is responsible for any aspect of a performance that relates to the text. In some theatre companies there is an in-house Dramaturg who consults with the Artistic Director about what plays should be included in the programme. This is often particularly in relation to new work. If a company is involved in commissioning a new play, the Dramaturg will be the person working most closely with the playwright to get the script into shape for performance.
If a play has a particular historic or political context, it will be the Dramaturg who does the background research, or assists the Director and actors to do their own, so that everyone is well informed about what they are communicating. Similarly, if the Director has decided on a ‘concept’ for a production, it will often be the Dramaturg who makes sure the execution of the concept is thought through in all its aspects, and that there is an internal consistency, and again, will provide research to ground the ideas securely.
When classical texts, such as Shakespeare, are being adapted for modern performance conditions, the Dramaturg will be responsible, working closely with the Director, for making the necessary cuts, deciding on strategic changes, and making sure all the meanings are understood. Sometimes the Dramaturg will also assist the actors in figuring out the metre they are required to speak, when performing plays written in verse.
Between them, Anthea and James have all these responsibilities and more, and they talked us through the ins and outs of them, and how they handle the many hats they wear.
These are the same interviews as linked to in my previous post, more conveniently packaged. Just the interviews here, without the music, sponsor announcements, and infuriating tech screw-ups.
Anthea Williams on dramaturging new work and her current production, Seventeen:
James Evans on dramaturging classic work, and his current production, Romeo and Juliet:
These interviews were broadcast on Eastside Radio on 24 July 2015.