Before their plays hit the stage, our student playwrights work closely with a team of artists to revise and further develop their play in the rehearsal room. A key member of that team is the dramaturg. Here, our New Voices dramaturgs—Paige, Brittany, and Emily—give us a peek into the process through their lens.
The age old question: what the heck is a dramaturg? What do you do?
Paige: One of my graduate school mentors once described the dramaturg as “the defender of the story” and I haven’t found a better definition since. Essentially, my job as a dramaturg is to act as a liaison between the playwright and the artistic and production teams to strengthen a play for production. Often, my work involves doing historical research, expanding or eliminating dialogue, reworking scenes to make their staging more manageable or their meaning more clear, clarifying character arcs and plot, etc. I do a lot of question asking. In New Voices, much of my work has been to be the voice of the playwright in rehearsals, especially when they are not able to attend, to make sure that revisions and staging are in line with the playwright’s voice and their vision for their work. I am also responsible for communicating the actors’ and director’s thoughts and questions to the playwright.
Emily: As a dramaturg for New Voices, I am an advocate for the playwright, in and outside of the rehearsal room. I guide the playwright through their revision process and help facilitate script-based conversation in the rehearsal room.
Brittany: As a dramaturg for New Voices, it is my responsibility to champion the voice of the writer! I need to be very familiar with the plays I am working with, and it is my ultimate goal to help the writers unlock the best possible version of their play (for themselves in this process!) and to see that their play is accurately explored in the production process.
What is the most exciting part of your job as a dramaturg for New Voices?
Emily: Conversation! Whether it's discussing ways to flush out a particular moment in a scene, or a discussion about why this story is being told in the first place, it is so rewarding to have such artistic and insightful conversations with students.
Paige: The most exciting part of being a dramaturg for New Voices is the opportunity to work with young writers, many of whom are just discovering their passion for theatre. They have such fresh perspectives and interesting voices and they are so ridiculously talented. I love working with an organization that takes the work of young people seriously. It’s really a thrilling experience to encourage young artists to take risks and explore their voice and stories. New Voices is also a fantastically collaborative process—I get to work with both seasoned theatre professionals and up and comers. Plus, it has been an amazing and supportive learning environment for me- the majority of my professional work as a dramaturg has been in historical/sociological research, rather than in new play development, and the entire PYP team and my fabulous directors (shout out to Christina May and Ozzie Jones) have been so patient and generous with their wisdom. I can’t imagine a better folks to learn from!
Brittany: The most exciting part is witnessing the students take in the collaboration between professional artists and university students as they fully embrace the play. The work of our young people is important, and having the opportunity to see a collaboration that validates this lights me up.
What is one thing you will remember about this process five years from now?
Brittany: I will remember the compassion that both the professional artists and university students brought to the table. The folks I had the opportunity to work with brought their whole heart, and I know the student writers could tell.
Also, I will definitely remember some of the spinoffs/FanFic versions of Imaginary that the cast/production team created, and hope to be a part of this YouTube sitcom spinoff they keep talking about!
Emily: This year, each play has such a strong, clear message that tackles a larger social issue. I feel so inspired by these pieces and these young writers. I hope they all continue to use their talents to make change happen!
Paige: Five years from now (50 years from now!), I will remember the look on each of the playwrights’ faces when they heard their words brought to life by actors. It was so powerful to watch—and I feel very honored to celebrate them!