Ending up a Dramaturg

Last night I was asked by our friend and classmate Stuart to come participate in the tech of a solo he is performing this weekend in BU’s Dance Theatre Group show “Origins.” I showed up and provided a body to see the lighting on, filmed a run, and gave comments. I’ve been helping Stuart out in this way for a few weeks now, occasionally helping him out by lending an outside eye.

I’ve spent my time with him primarily noting how things are hitting me. “I don’t get what’s going on there”, I’ll say, or “Yeah, I found that really surprising!” During this last run of the piece we both realized that one piece of choreography was breaking out of the choreographic world that had been set up, and were able to change it. I’ve helped out with music selection, choreography, and served as the eye of the audience.

I was thinking about what exactly my “role” might be in this process. I’m not a choreographer, certainly – that’s Stuart. He takes any comments I make and then decides his own movement. So what am I? I’m kind of a dramaturg. Excluding the reams of research necessary on a written text, I found myself filling many of the parts we’ve studied as falling under the hat of production dramaturg. Serving as the naive audience member, watching for continuity, expressing my own good ideas with discretion and aplomb.

The articles we read at the beginning of the year that mentioned the possibility of dramaturgs for things as wide-ranging as architecture make more sense to me now. The weaving together, the eye for continuity, the subtle observation of all the parts and how they will relate to the public – this is such a vital function!

In this piece I was truly a facilitator, both for Stuart himself and for Stuart’s connection with his audience – it’s not my voice or choreography out there on stage, not by any means (and has no right to be) but I can look at sections and see how my contributions eased a transition or clarified a moment.

Dramaturgs are USEFUL, man.

One Comment

sbmeyers posted on November 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I LOVE this. I think this is a near perfect example of what it means to be a dramaturg, especially in dance. As the choreographer of my own solo, it’s been a difficult task to play choreographer, performer and dramaturg. Although research and dramaturgy has deeply influenced my process, the role of the dramaturg is not one I can take credit for in my process. Joseph has been extremely instrumental in helping me articulate my vision. If I could credit him with the title of “Dramaturg,” I would. It’s been an interesting discovery to find that although my work is labeled as a “solo,” there are a lot of people still necessary to make the work happen. Dramaturgs, lighting designers, stage managers, technicians, theatre managers, etc. are all absolute collaborators. Often though, I feel that the dramaturg, in particular, in the pre-professional process are the friends we trust.

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