Collaboration is the essence of being a theatre artist. Whether you are an actor, writer, director, designer, producer, PR representative, or dramaturg; you rely upon the collaborative work of the people in the room with you to get the show on its feet. I am currently involved in the most collaborative show I have ever been in during my time at Boston University. That show is the Directors Project. The show is a collection of ten-minute plays directed, acted, and produced by undergrad students. While we have faculty advisors for the project, we as an ensemble decide upon every element of the show. It’s amazing. I can’t believe that it was only two (and almost a half) years ago that all of us were freshmen, and now we are planning a whole evening, two evenings in fact because the show is broken up into two different weekends. This spirit of collaboration is what makes Director’s Project grow and change.
One thing that I have begun to encounter is the fine line we walk as collaborators, but also as peers and friends. A huge part of the collaboration process is having the ability to say yes to other’s ideas, but another possibly larger prospect is having the ability to say no. People inevitably get into disagreements and sometimes feelings are hurt. This is difficult coupled with the fact that we are also friends who spend most of their time together outside of the rehearsal room as well.
What I have come to learn from this process is the total lack of ego you need to have as a collaborator. That’s obvious, but it isn’t as easy to put into practice. For instance, I felt that my play should go last in our evening. I thought that thematically it worked and that it would be a fantastic way to close the night. But in doing so I put the needs of my play ahead of other plays. I was being egotistical unintentionally. It wasn’t about my play, it was about the entire evening, all the technical and thematic needs of the piece as a whole. Even saying “my play” is an expression of my ego. One of our advisors, Sid Friedman, encourages to continue to ask what the text wants and what the text needs. Serve the story, not your own needs. It isn’t my play, it’s the story that I am serving.
As I continue my dramaturgical training, I think about this more and more every day. It isn’t about me. It’s about serving the text. The story. And the other people there with you. Dramaturgs leave their ego behind more than anyone. They are responsible for filtering in which information is necessary to the play and what is helpful. For ever ten word tidbit a dramaturg gives to a director, they could give them a ten minute tirade of all the other research they did on the subject. And the dramaturg’s name isn’t on the poster. They aren’t up on stage. But they serve the story and the text arguably more than anyone else. My forays into directing and dramaturgy have left me with this: serve the text before anything else. Serve the text and bring the story to the audience.
Oh, and come see Director’s Project December 6-8 and 13-15!!!