Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome to Rhymes With Dramaturg!

Hello World Out There:

This is Ilana Lucas, or Casual Fairylane if you're into anagrams. I'm a recent MFA graduate of Columbia University, with a degree in Dramaturgy and Script Development. Before my three-year stint in Manhattan, I did time in New Jersey, getting my AB in English and Theatre at Princeton University. Now I've moved back to my hometown of Toronto, and am looking forward to blogging about the arts and theatre scene here.

Dramaturgs spend most of our time explaining to people what we do. It comes with the territory. Mention you're an actor, a costume designer, even a director, and people will nod knowingly; or at least will recognize that they should have some idea of what you do. Dramaturgs are met with confusion, sometimes suspicion, and even the disapproving red line of most spellcheckers. Possibly because the word is harsh and Germanic. And nothing rhymes with it, save an exclamation following a wretched piece of theatre: "Drama: Blergh!"

(Full disclosure: I am firmly in the camp that believes that the word is dramaturg, not dramaturge. The position in its current form and label began as an idea in Germany, immortalized by Gotthold Lessing in The Hamburg Dramaturgy. Dramaturge, rather, is the French word for playwright. Which I am, but that's another capacity entirely. Dramaturg vs. Dramaturge is often hotly debated among the few people who care, but hey, even The New York Times is starting to come around and see it my way.)

No, the real reason that nobody understands what a dramaturg is that the position is so malleable. Sometimes we don't even know what we do. A dramaturg is a theatrical jack-of-all-trades, something different to every theatre and every production, and one essential skill is to figure out how you are needed and can be most useful. Dramaturgs work to develop scripts of new plays with new and seasoned playwrights. They host workshops and talkbacks. They are the research point person on plays historical and new, and the person who tentatively mentions that it might not be a good idea to set Heartbreak House in Space. They write program notes, spearhead educational programs, create lobby displays. They market, commission, produce, plan seasons, artistic-direct, sometimes even direct. Perhaps most importantly, they are there to foster conversation and create links; the axons and dendrites between neurons. Dramaturgs connect directors and playwrights, plays and actors, actors and directors, and everyone and everything with the audiences that are the vital last step in the theatrical process. My mission here is to connect the reader with theatre, and, I hope, with the dramaturg.

This blog, ideally, will become a series of meditations on theatre, the current scene, reviews, and stories about my nascent dramaturgical career: reminiscences and new projects. I welcome suggestions and comments.

I firmly believe that theatre can still be exciting, relevant, and like nothing else we experience. It should be part of our lives, and reflect on who we are. After all, as one of my favourite authors wrote, in the final line of his final novel: "This is the Great Theatre of Life. Admission is free, but the taxation is mortal. You come when you can, and leave when you must. The show is continuous. Good night." (Robertson Davies)




  1. Very good!
    Finally, something intelligent to read on Blogspot!
    (You know, you really are an excellent writer... - maybe I've been watching too many episodes of Mad Men but I think you would be very good at scripting commercials (of the >10 second variety) this also might be somewhat lucrative. Start your own business... ;-)

  2. hee, hee, I can just see your potential company motto, taken from a 1950's TV western show: Have Gun - Will Travel
    (mal-appropriated from old theatre adverts: "Have Tux - Will Travel" even a Robert Heinlein SF novel: "Have Space Suit - Will Travel" anyway, your new company motto (or name):
    "Have Turg - Will Provide Drama" or somesuch...

    How about: "Have Drama - Will Provide 'Turg?"

    you get the idea... I'll shut up now!