This post is for all those who are not the ‘official’ dramaturg in the room:
As I’ve embarked on dramaturgy on my own, I’ve come to a frightening realization: there is a mistaken, albeit very flattering, assumption by many people in the room that the dramaturg is the source of all knowledge on the play. There is a nagging suspicion on many fronts that the dramaturg knows better than you do, or that they are secretly laughing at your misunderstanding of the play. There is an anxiety as I furiously scribble on my script that I am making note of something that don’t know, that they are, in some way, out of the loop. They have not been permitted entrance to my very special smart kid club.
Here’s a secret: I have no goddamn clue what the hell I am doing. That question you asked? Sure, I’ve asked it of myself a thousand times before, but that doesn’t matter. Your answer to that question, however, is everything. Every question about theme, particularly in a complex work, has a myriad of possible answers, conclusions, and citations to be made. I can’t possibly think of all the answers, because I’m not you. Please, for God’s sake, do not demote yourself to a lower intellectual status by virtue of your job, because I know exactly how that feels. The assumption that a dramaturg is not as artistic or creative as the ‘real artists’ in the room haunts me, and I hate it. I’d hate to see you, as an actor, designer, etc, pigeonhole yourself into an artistic identity that makes you feel less-than at any point of the process, including the table work and analysis.
Don’t underrate yourself! You’re probably goddamn brilliant, and you’re coming at the play from a different angle than I am, and because of that, your point of view is invaluable to me as a dramaturg. Your thought, opinions, concerns, and confusions are even more important because they a) challenge me to rethink my work, b) mirror the same issues our audience will likely be dealing with, and c) illuminate the issues that arise when the play is approached through your entry point, not mine. That scribbling on my notepad? It’s not me saying “oh my god, why don’t they understand that there’s a connection here,” it’s me saying “damn, we need to make sure that, when all is said and done, this connection is clear to both us and the audience.” 90% of the time, that’s on me: I should have predicted that confusion and made sure we were prepared, but hindsight is 20/20 and I still need my glasses.
What I want is some new PR for the dramaturg. There is this sense of bookish, academic pretentiousness to this career that I think prevents truly great dramaturgy from happening. I don’t think that dramaturgs are all that egotistical, but I do think there is a sense that they think they know more, or are smarter. As a result, discussion doesn’t happen on equal footing, and not everyone’s voice is heard as clearly as it should be.