Ask Me About: What a dramaturg can do

10247217_10153139455092445_5224759453873456684_n“Remarks like that were embedded in my head and took up precious space that should have been occupied with other things but wasn’t.” – Ray Midge, The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

One of the things I enjoy about dramaturgy (and writing!) is becoming a temporary expert on all kinds of unexpected topics. And once I learn those things, I want to share them! “Ask Me About” is a continuing series of posts about trivia and knowledge I pick up in the course of rehearsals and research.

This is a slightly different (and much more self-aggrandizing, #sorrynotsorry) installment in Ask Me About. Rather than being about facts! and knowledge! that I picked up as a dramaturg, it’s about actions! and events! and stuff! that I did as a dramaturg as part of the production process.

Little Bee at Book-It closed back on May 17, but the process of winding it down took a little bit longer than that. Now that everything’s finished, I thought I’d sit down and make a list of some of the things I did. (Quantifying your achievements looks good on resumes, I am told.) Plus, I wanted to point my readers towards some of the amazing people I worked with and shine a light on their work.

So what did I do during Little Bee?

  • Arranged two rehearsal visits in which experts came in to discuss aspects of the play with the cast: thank you thank you THANK YOU to Temie Fancy for giving us a Nigerian perspective, and to Maggie Cheng from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for helping us understand the asylum process. (Also reached out to Ernie Piper, who helped us with some Georgian language and cultural expertise. Thanks, Ernie!)
  • Ran four pre- and post-show talks with representatives from the International Rescue Committee, the Refugee Women’s Alliance, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and with director/adapter and Book-It co-Artistic Director Myra Platt — all with the invaluable help of the Book-It marketing team (thank you, Sarah and Patricia!) and theater staff (thanks, Dana and Tom!).
  • As a company, we raised a little over $300 in patron donations for these three organizations. Thank you to our patrons!
  • Through the pre- and post-show talks, we also helped patrons find out about opportunities to volunteer with these organizations. One of my proudest moments was overhearing a patron approach one of the org reps to talk about offering her skills as an interpreter.
  • Had more in-depth conversations about How To Theatre at odd hours of the day than I’ve had since college.
  • Wrote a blog post, a program note, a profile of Deng Duot, and a whole bunch of charts and stats. I . . . wrote so many words. Um. (During one meeting to discuss the program note I joked that “my instinct is always to just write a 1,600 word essay for these,” like I did for Pride and Prejudice, and this time I just … like … wrote the equivalent of four 1,600 word essays but in bite-size chunks. Oops?)Big big BIG ups to Shannon Loys for taking all the stuff I threw at her and making it beautiful; she has been utterly instrumental to all three lobby displays I helped create for Book-It this season.

Possible outcomes of the asylum process made simple. Seriously. This is the simple version. Content by me, graphic design by Shannon Loys.

Oh, and my program/lobby display got singled out as “vivid” and “informative” in two different reviews of the show.

And perhaps my proudest achievement of all: introduced a new generation to Batman: The Animated Series.

Jonah Kowal as Charlie(/Batman). Photo by John Ulman, via Book-It’s Facebook page.

Like I’ve said before: all of this, the community outreach, the educational writing for the audience, the long talks about how to tell a story, and the resources provided to actors, all of this is dramaturgy to my mind. It all helps shape the end product–which is the total experience that the audience has when they pay their money and sit down for a performance.

I feel incredibly honored to have been part of this play with Book-It, and to have worked with the incredible team: Will Abrahamse, who designed the amazing set; Christine Meyers on costumes (and one of those people willing to have odd-hours phone conversations with me); Andrew D. Smith making magic with lights; Evan Mosher and Harry Todd Jamieson creating an absolutely beautiful soundscape; William E. Cruttenden III and Xandria Nirvana Barber making the whole thing possible; and of course, Myra Platt, helming the whole thing as director and adapter. Plus a beautiful, beautiful, dedicated, ridiculously flexible cast.

And I am darn proud of the work I did.

And I’m excited to keep going to the next project. Work engenders work, as Lillian Hellman says.

2 thoughts on “Ask Me About: What a dramaturg can do

  1. All that work showed in the production of the play — rather seamlessly. Thanks for inviting us, and seeking our perspectives on it. Thanks for all of the information in the lobby, and to you and the cast for giving us so much to take away. One often goes to plays and leaves the theater and says, “that was entertaining.” “Little Bee” had its deeply amusing moments, but also many others to recall and ponder — not a typical drama experience at all.

    Looking forward to Lillian.

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