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Dramaturgy: Chicken Soup for the Soul

This afternoon, in our New Play Development class, we video chatted with dramaturg, theatre-maker, and all-around lady boss Catherine María Rodríguez. Hearing her speak passionately about how she defines dramaturgy, how her work intersects with activism, and her all-around joy to be doing what she does illuminated something within me. Ideas simmering below the surface began to take shape, until a realization came into focus: I think that dramaturgy might be good for me.

Too often I am preoccupied with what I might be good at, which is equal parts a product of my ego (just being honest, y’all) and a desire to genuinely add value to the rooms I’m in, to assess what skills I have and how I can put them to use to help change the American theatre. And like, that’s cool and all. But what if the act of dramaturgy can also be good for me – and by extension, all of you too! Does it make me a better, more empathetic listener, and a better person? I think it can, it does, and I think that maybe it already has.


Dramaturgy is so damn sneaky.


Here are some other things I learned in our chat with Catherine:

  • Dramaturgy, a definition: to make, clarify, & convey meaning

(Psst — If this is true, dramaturgs are automatically generative artists!!!)

  • Dramaturgs also occupy space and make space for others. This pursuit is deeply connected with activism. Both of these things endeavor to leave a legacy that is better and more inclusive than the way you found it.

(All of the above requires STRATEGY. That is also a dramaturgical pursuit.)

  • If you don’t like something, do something about it. Okay, clear enough. Here’s the fun part: if an audience of your work doesn’t like something you make, they can do something about it themselves and it ain’t your responsibility to fix it for them.

(Our job is to focus on what is there, not what isn’t.)

  • Fuck the self-doubt.

I don’t think this one needs any clarification.


And, last but not least, Catherine left us with this advice: “Lock yourself in a joyful room.” Find the thing that excites you and find the people who are also excited by that thing and then commit to making a thing that is exciting, that is charged with meaning, and then own it.


And while you’re at it, you can smile, and remember that the whole damn thing is dramaturgy. That makes me feel pretty good.

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