Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Dramaturgs Drama-Nerding Out

After the amazing colony at PTC last week, Lisa C. Ravensbergen and I reflected on the experience of dramaturging new work. At this year's colony all four scripts were inspired, in whole or in part, by a specific event or work of art. Mote by José Teodoro, for example, is a re-imagined version of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and The Decameron: A City by Greg MacArthur is an inventive response to the disintegration of a specific social scene in Montreal.
This particular tid-bit of conversation between Lisa and me began with a simple yet valuable question: Should a dramaturg be privy to the source material that inspires a script? Be it a movie, a book, a historical event, or a personal experience-- does having a sound knowledge of the source enrich the development of the work or potentially skew the direction of the piece? Here's what we came up with.

Emily: I was thinking about the value of knowing/not knowing the source material that inspired a script. The key to this seems to be that the more points of view there are on a project, the more more possibilities there are for development. So if there are 2 dramaturgs on a specific project, and one knows the source material and the other doesn't, then the writer is able to see a response to his piece that comes from various points of view; an experience that parallels the various and distinct points of view of audience members.

Also it's essential to distinguish between the structure and message of the script and that of the original material.
So, this it seems to me that a dramaturg can help refine and articulate the relationship between the source material and the script. What do you think?

Lisa: I guess you're speaking to intention... the personal intention (why this particular source material... why now?).

E: In a way. I meant more that it is important to compare and contrast the form/content of the script and the source in order to figure out what the script needs to be more itself. To me it is more about the direction of the draft than the intention of the writer.

L: Except when the source is highly personal, the writer's intention may weigh more heavily for them than the script's 'direction.'

E: Very true. Interesting. I guess different forms of source material require different forms of dramaturgy.

L: Bingo!

E: Awesome. So each project elicits a unique relationship between dramaturg, writer and script, a relationship that must be a careful and sensitive response to the specific project at hand. This is perhaps why dramaturgy is so hard to define.

L: Sure. And just like an actor trains and exposes themselves to different teachers, texts, styles of acting, etc... a dramaturg will have their own artistic range and to varying degrees be more or less experienced in specific styles of dramaturgy. And the stakes are not any less intense for a dramaturg: it becomes key for a dramaturg to ask at some point, "what can I bring to this project? Is that what the writer needs or has expressed that they want? Am I the best person for this job?"

When you listened to the dramaturgs around the table last week - we all entered into the work from different points of view - and yet, I believe I was on the project that fit me and my inclinations best - as it suited the other dramaturgs to be in their pairings.

E: Right. It seems that a continual checking in with the state of the project is key, so that as it develops both the writer and the dramaturg are serving it as best they can.

L: And the tricky part is asking the right question. at the right time.

E: I guess my next question would be about focus then. Is the dramaturg always working with the intention of the writer in mind? Or does the dramaturg focus on what the script itself seems to want? Intuitively, I would say it's most likely a delicate balancing act between the two, but let's address this question next time on Lisa and Emily Drama-nerd out! Coming soon to a blog near you.

Lisa C. Ravensburgen

Creator / Actor / Dramaturg / Dancer

A tawny mix of Ojibway/ Swampy Cree and English/ Irish, Lisa C. Ravensbergen has established herself as a multi-disciplinary artist working primarily as a creator, actor, dramaturge and sometimes dancer. She supplements her somewhat eclectic and thoroughly enjoyable practice of theatre and community collaborations with the delights of motherhood and the challenges of self-produced works. She is an Associate Artist with Full Circle: First Nations Performance, a member of LMDA and a graduate of TWU and SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts. Lisa is grateful for her life, for the hard lessons behind her and for the opportunities that so generously lie before her.

Emily Kedar

Dramaturgy Intern at PTC

Emily is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with an Honours BA in English and Theatre. An emerging writer and dramaturg, Emily is honoured and delighted to be the newest member of the PTC team. She has worked as a developmental dramaturg at Factory Theatre under Iris Turcott and as a production dramaturg with the Driftwood Theatre Company in Toronto. Her three pain passions are poetry, theatre and gardening, and she is happily pursuing all three in her new home of Vancouver. She is blessed and blissed to find herself on the gorgeous Pacific coast and to be so involved in making theatre that challenges, delights, and jumps to life.

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