In my last post, I talked about working with myself. This, week I’ve been thinking about working with others. Between reading excerpts of Mark Bly’s wonderful resource The Production Notebooks, our in class discussions, Michael John Ciszewski’s insightful post, and my current project heading into tech, the importance of working in and on relationships is becoming clearer and clearer to me. The recent moments I’ve felt most useful and purposeful have all revolved around people. I’ve felt most successful as a dramaturg in moments of humor, of compassion, of support. That’s not to say I haven’t felt useful in moments of disagreement and creative conflict, but the way I see it, if there is a level of safety and trust–if there are solid relationships and grounded people– then the conflict and disagreement can stay productively creative rather than veering into the personal.
Mark Bly mentions this need for a solid company in The Production Notebooks Clytemnestra section. From my (extremely limited) observations and experience, directors tend to be better at creating this company among the actors than among the designers and technicians. This is totally understandable; I have yet to work with a director who came to directing through designing rather than through acting, so it makes sense that it is easier for a director trained in acting to know how to give actors need a secure and supportive base to take creative risks. Rehearsal halls are set up to allow for this, and stage managers write reports to carefully respect the events that transpire in rehearsals. Designers, however, rarely get the same privilege.
For one thing, it is often harder for directors and designers to establish strong bonds over the development of a single production, simply because the director and designers won’t spend nearly as much time together as the director and actors. For another, the structure, at least in school, within which designers and directors interact is much less private; the production manager and other outside eyes such as advisors attend most meetings.
Since the structure doesn’t offer itself to supporting the designers quite as well as the actors, I’m working to help foster the offstage side of the company. I don’t mean to say that things wouldn’t go fine without me; all of the designers are practiced at “committing acts of dramaturgy” and have created their own network of support and creativity. But another helping hand never hurts.