What is a Dramaturg?
Dramaturg. Dramaturge. However you choose to spell it. According to Wikipedia, a dramaturg, “Is a literary adviser or editor in a theatre, opera, or film company who researches, selects, adapts, edits, and interprets scripts, libretti, texts, and printed programs (or helps others with these tasks), consults authors, and does public relations work.”
What Does a Dramaturg do?
Being a dramaturg is quite frankly, not for the weak of heart. They hold the balance of the wants, needs, and ideas of the production with the playwright's wants, needs, and ideas for the story. They make sure the playwright’s voice is heard and the integrity of the script is preserved even if that means protecting the play from the playwright themselves.
Here is where the dramaturg earns their stripes. They confront us head-on and say, “Hey! I see where you are trying to go, but this isn’t the path.” That is exactly what happened to me during the workshop of Murder, We Spoke. Director/dramaturg/new play warrior, Lila Rachel Becker, stopped me dead in my tracks.
In fact, these conversations are only difficult if we - the playwrights - make them that way. Yes, this is your work. Yes, these are your words. Yes, you created the world. Yes, these are your characters, your story. You put in the time, talent, and imagination to write this thing…but you know what? Drafts suck. That’s why they are called “drafts.” But that isn’t a bad thing! It doesn't mean the play is bad. It doesn't mean the story shouldn’t be told. It doesn’t mean you’re NOT talented. All it means is that you got lost on your way. Now, drop your ego, admit you need help, and trust the person that wants this story told as much as you - the dramaturg.
A Playwright's Advocate
I’m really trying not to spoil anything in Murder, We Spoke, but I want to take this time to say thank you to Becker. Her ability to cut through the weeds, meet me on my path, and advocate for the best way to tell this story is invaluable to me. Under her guidance, this series is confidently stepping into its next phase of development. I can’t wait to share with you all the hard-work and brilliance of her direction and dramaturgy.
The next stage of workshops is happening in mid-October. I hope you continue on this journey with me and learn more about the amazing artists involved in Tantrum East’s Murder, We Spoke.
Learn more about Lila Rachel Becker and get her on your future production team!
Quick tip for folks on their phones reading this (and on Instagram.) Go to the URL at the top of our screen and click (the ... on iPhone) to "open in browser." Then, turn screen horizontally for best interaction and view.
There is one in every group. That one person in your friend group that does that artsy thing. Maybe they're a writer, a playwright, an actor, a designer, a painter, an illustrator, a director, really into theatre etc. You don't quite understand this passion of theirs. You don't get how they make a living. And you are often confused by the industry terminology in general. But, at the end of the day, despite the setbacks and frustrations, your artsy friend is happy or proud or fulfilled. At minimum, this artsy thing gives them a sense of purpose and you want to support that. If you are wondering how you can be an active supporter for your writer (or artsy) friend, click through the presentation or choose your own adventure below and discover supportive options big and small! Full disclosure, I'm using myself and my current project, Murder, We Spoke, as the example. But feel free to apply this to any and all of your artsy friends.
I think every playwright has heard a few sayings when it comes to submissions and rejections.
“Rejection is just protection.”
“It’s not a ‘no,’ it’s a ‘not yet.’”
“You were rejected from this so you could achieve another…”
“It’s a game of numbers, the more you enter, the more your odds go up.”
My favorite: “Just keep submitting – every year – so, they get to know you through your drafts and variety of plays. They will start to recognize your name and watch your writing grow.” This piece of advice is something I have in fact given to students and other playwrights.
I truly believed it, or at least I wanted to. But, how do you know when it’s okay to keep believing and when to just face reality that maybe they're just not that into you?
Let me tell you what actually happened to me...
THE HUB: Loved your work and great application! Just didn’t see how this particular play you submitted speaks to what you described in your artistic statement.
ME: Okay, I will rewrite my artistic statement and make sure it relates to my submitted play.
I did what I always do…I submitted again. I figured a strong application and a well-liked play might make it in this time. After all, it is “a game of numbers,” right?
As of 2022, I received another, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
What am I missing? What am I not saying? What am I saying too much of (is that a thing?) What balance am I not striking? What is The Hub looking for, exactly? Do they want someone with a following? With multiple productions? With the “right” recommender? With the “right” work with the “right” workshops and affiliations that are just as prestigious as them?
This is the bigger question…should I just quit (submitting to them?)
Honestly, the time and effort put into their applications, finding different recommenders - every year - I could put that energy into a different playwriting submission somewhere else.
I’m really curious, is there ever a time you realized that it isn’t a “not yet.” That it isn’t “a game of numbers.” That it isn’t anything we were told? That maybe they’re just not that into you and you really should take the hint and move on.
About the Blog
I write plays. I tell stories. I create content. I vent. I offer advice. I hope people will learn from my mistakes.