Is There a Dramaturg in the House? Should There Be? Dramaturgs and Playwrights Hash out What They like and Don't like about the New-Play Development Process
Harvey, Alec, American Theatre
Dramaturgs and playwrights. Playwrights and dramaturgs. How do they work together? Do they enjoy working together? And what does it achieve?
Discussions like these can tend toward the contentious. Certainly Alec Harvey, theatre and entertainment writer for the Birmingham News, did not hesitate to pose these and other semi-incendiary questions during a panel discussion at Alabama Shakespeare Festival's annual Southern Writers' Project Festival of New Plays last June. The panelists were playwright Allison Moore and dramaturg Lenora Inez Brown, who were working on Moore's Hazard County; Carlyle Brown and Tanya Palmer, who teamed up on Brown's Pure Confidence; Keith Josef Adkins and Susan Willis, collaborators on Adkins's The Patron Saint of Peanuts; and Janece Shaffer and Jennifer Hebblethwaite, who were paired on Shaffer's Suspended in Amber. While the four writer-dramaturg teams had only love for one another, they didn't shy away from reporting what works and what doesn't, using the festival's weeklong rehearsal process as a case in point.
--Lenora Inez Brown
ALEC HARVEY: When I was asked to moderate this panel, I sat down to make my notes and thought: I know a lot of dramaturgs, and I've read a lot about dramaturgs, but what exactly does a dramaturg do?
SUSAN WILLIS: In my experience, dramaturging a new play really depends on the relationship you have with the playwright and on what the playwright needs. Everything in a new-play project is designed to serve the playwright.
JENNIFER HEBBLETHWAITE: Susan was my teacher, so my philosophy reflects hers. It's unusual to get to work with a playwright so many times on several different pieces, as I have with Janece. We have a shorthand with each other: You know, it's midnight and we're sprawled across the bed and she's going, "Read this. What do you think of that? Let's talk about this." How rare is that, to have that kind of working relationship?
JANECE SHAFFER: We have a code. She says, "There's just too many words here," and that means, "This sucks."
LENORA INEZ BROWN: The …
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Publication information: Article title: Is There a Dramaturg in the House? Should There Be? Dramaturgs and Playwrights Hash out What They like and Don't like about the New-Play Development Process. Contributors: Harvey, Alec - Author. Magazine title: American Theatre. Volume: 21. Issue: 9 Publication date: November 2004. Page number: 74+. © 1999 Theatre Communications Group. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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