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Role Playing

When I came into the School of Theatre program as a freshman in the fall of 2011, I had a very narrow idea of what theatre was, and in particular, the roles in which a theatre artist could be involved: i.e. director, designer, playwright, technician, actor, etc. By the end of my first year at school, I was passionately, manifesto-tively, convinced that I needed to single-handedly destroy the idea of those specific roles.

Theatre is about collaboration, I cried!

Theatre is about ensemble!!

Down with the director! Down with the author!

Let’s devise! Let’s create! Let’s all do everything and do it all together!

I’m over halfway through the SOT program now. I’ve done quite a bit of devising and truly immeasurable mounts of ensemble-based work, and still my thoughts and feelings on my place as a theatre-maker are ever changing.

Last semester, I took a directing class taught by the brilliant Clay Hopper. Currently, I’m in a show composed of student-directed 10-minute plays, facilitated by Clay and directing genius Sidney Friedman. The experience has been remarkably positive. I can’t express how much I’ve learned about directing (and acting) between this quarter and Clay’s class last year.

As an actor, directing class gave me a set of tools with which to make intelligent and informed choices that served the character and the play. Practicing the skills of dramaturgy has had a similar effect.

What’s important to me, as a theatre artist, is to tell stories that matter—tell stories my audience needs to hear. Whether I’m doing that as an actor, director, dramaturg, deviser or combination-of-all-of-these-ensemble-member, I need the skills I’ve learned from directing and dramaturgy to inform my work.

Directors and dramaturgs use similar skills to do what they do. They even serve a similar purpose in that they must keep the company focused on their mutual goal. If actors don’t have the same skills, they can’t help achieve that goal.

As it is, I’m not totally sure what role I want to play in the theatre. My personal goals and artistic desires change constantly. There’s still a part of me that thinks “let’s all do everything and do it all together!” is the way to go, and there’s still a part of me that wants to simply take on the role of actor. Regardless, whatever roles I end up playing (ha ha cute right), it’s important for me to keep the skills of the dramaturg alive in my mind. As an actor, I want to look at my work with a dramaturg’s eye. As a dramaturg, I need to look at our process from the perspective of the person embodying it for the audience. A well-rounded artist is a responsible artist, right?

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