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Geniuses whose reflection will help you

November 14, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Uncategorized

Let me direct your attention, especially all you feed-readers out there, to the little green widget in my sidebar that I have labeled “Big Ideas”. This is, in my humble opinion, a feed of some of the most mind-blowing thoughts on infrastructure and analysis on the theatre web. It is culled from a hundred or so blogs that I read regularly, and “Big Idea” status is only conferred on most enriching content out there. And you can even subscribe and save yourself all that work if you so choose. So enjoy.

That said, two special mentions today for folks I don’t normally link to:

Scrappy “Jack” John Clancy reposts his essay on the rehearsal process, which reads as fresh as a lime soda. Though, as a designer, I have to take issue with the idea that it is “Best to forget about the play entirely during technical rehearsals and leave the poor actors alone.” But of course, he’s mainly talking about managing actor energy, not a director’s energy. Good stuff.

And if you haven’t read Dark Knight Dramaturgy yet, (the amazing Chicago expat Dan Rubin, who is now in the literary department at ACT), today’s the day to start. Dan’s posts are nothing short of illuminated in general, but he begins a series today on effective strategies and resources for playwrights to get their works included in some of the most high-profile festivals in the country. Knowing Dan’s approach to literary management (Dan was both dramaturg for New Leaf’s Girl in the Goldfish Bowl and assisted greatly during the Goodman’s Horton Foote Festival), I can say with trust: he’s your man on the inside.

This post in particular is a must-read for all you underproduced playwrights out there.

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The Business of Dramaturgy

November 17, 2007 By: Nick Keenan Category: Collaboration, In a Perfect World

Dramaturgy Reminds You To Smile Dan Rubin – Chicago dramaturg extraordinaire – has written a great analysis of the role of a dramaturg.  Especially notable as far as this blog goes is that he is taking a role that is in many ways literary theater in its purest form and beginning to synthesize the art of dramaturgy with the business of better art.   

It should probably tell you something about the relative value that society places on the quality of entertainment that finding a paid freelance dramaturg gig (in theory a role that directly improves the strength of a project’s artistic vision) is incredibly difficult. More often, a dramaturg finds permanent work as a literary manager, which is a role more focused on artistic brand development – i.e. building a body of artistic work that also happens to be unified and therefore marketable. 

I try to approach my own work as that of a sonic dramaturg – someone trying to build a cohesive sonic vision that fits with the intentions of the director using only sound, and I’m not sure how that jives with Dan’s vision of the dramaturg’s role…. I suppose following the sonic or other sensual vision to great lengths could put me out of sync with the other design elements, which is always a risk, but it’s also extremely valuable to have the designers use dramaturgical thinking in addition to following their artistic impulses to make sure a vision is cohesive. Inexperienced dramaturgs can also sacrifice the human value of an impulse on the altar of things like overly dry period research, as if every world of the play being created in the theater were the ‘real’ world. Naturalism. Thunk.

But having an active, sensitive dramaturg on a show is like springing for a fine wine to go with that meal.  It brings out all the flavors that your chef (the director, I suppose?) has paired together on your plate.  It’s a heady combination.   I certainly can’t afford that glass of wine most of the time.   In a different culture, we might not be able to conceive of eating our food without also deeply enjoying, deep, rich, well-balanced flavors.  But of course, this is America, where life, food, and art are not necessarily experienced in depth.  Our moments are more often experienced half hour blocks in between commuting.  

I hate to say it, but until our culture changes Dan and his colleagues may need to keep their eyes on how they can be marketable talents rather than how their talents can be used to further the art.  How have you dramaturgs found creative ways to use your talents to generate rent money?

Depressed, anyone?  Well go out and hug your local dramaturg.

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