Tag Archives: Sarah Dickenson

What is a dramaturg?

In preparation for my work teaching dramaturgy in Singapore at the Intercultural Theatre Institute next month, I’ve been collecting definitions of what is often, in the UK at least, a slippery customer….

My seminars will be part of four perspectives – the playwright’s, the director’s, the actor’s and designer/scenographer’s. I’m excited, as part of the time I will be co-teaching with collaborators from actual productions of my plays, or performances we have co-created. We will be deconstructing the text, roles, and decision-making process, as well as sharing play texts and video/documentation of those specific performances with the students. I hope this will demystify what can be a perplexing and opaque process, and is the most holistic and revealing approach I have yet to come across.

The role of the dramaturg and the definition of dramaturgy can vary hugely. The understanding of the role in the German state theatre context is immensely different from many examples in the US repertory theatre system – and different again in the UK. To kick us off on what I hope will be a regular feature on this blog is a definition culled from the RSC’s ‘Radical Mischief’, Issue 02 from May 2014, and the associate dramaturg for the RSC’s Midsummer Mischief Festival, Sarah Dickenson:

‘The term “dramaturgy” refers to the art or technique of dramatic composition and theatrical representation: the means by which a story can be shaped into a performable form. All performance works have a dramaturgy, mostly sharing a set of base principles but diversifying widely within that. This dramaturgy is first created by the playwright/ makers when they construct a story for the stage, is developed in rehearsal by the director, designers and actors and then comes to full fruition in the interaction the performance has with its audience. This process varies, particularly if the piece is devised or physical, but the key points remain.

A dramaturg is concerned with supporting this process at some or all of these stages. In practice, that job might involve many different tasks, from the identification of performable work, to working with a playwright through several drafts, to hands on support in the rehearsal room. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a cup of tea with a theatremaker as they wrangle with a particularly tricky aspect of their piece. However, always at the heart of the dramaturg’s role is the ability to constructively, clearly and sensitively question a piece of work towards making it the best it can be, without confusing, overwhelming or blocking those making it.”

Sarah Dickenson in RSC’s Radical Mischief. Issue 02. May 2014.   @sedickenson

I will be sharing further perspectives and experiences later on this blog.

 

Wales Arts Review and a Twitter virgin

Original illustration  for Kaite O'Reilly's "The 9 Fridas ( 九面芙烈達 )" Salt Tse-Ying Chiang (江則穎) http://salt-c-art.com/The-9-Fridas

Original illustration
for Kaite O’Reilly’s “The 9 Fridas ( 九面芙烈達 )” Salt Tse-Ying Chiang (江則穎)
http://salt-c-art.com/The-9-Fridas

The lovely chaps at Wales Arts Review have published my rehearsal diary from the weeks I spent recently in Taiwan, working on the 9 Fridas with Mobius Strip theatre company in association with Hong Kong Rep’ for The 2014 Taipei Art Festival. You can read the mix of travelogue and documentation of process here

Meanwhile, the wonderful Sarah Dickenson, playwright and dramaturge extradinaire, has finally got me on twitter. I will be fumbling around trying to learn what the buttons mean and how to be pithy and concise when every fibre in my being revolts and wants to revel and roll around in words, desiring everything to be BIGGER, RICHER, LONGER…… I see it as a challenge, It will be good for me, like haiku (but not, I hope, like cod liver oil).

I will be making an unintentional eejit of myself @kaiteoreilly

Follow at your peril.

 

A New Writer Doesn’t Mean A Young Writer….

Octagenarian PLaywrights wanted: Photo from The Independent newspaper

Octagenarian PLaywrights wanted: Photo from The Independent newspaper

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I’m grateful to my friend the writer Sandra Bendelow for bringing my attention to this…. The wonderful news that the Royal Court Theatre in London is seeking out ‘bright octogenarian writers.’ For a theatre so often associated with youth (I, amongst many, have benefitted from the development process attached to its well established  young writers programme), this is a major turning point indeed.

“The question was: ‘Why aren’t we giving those people a voice?’ ‘Vicky Featherstone says in an interview with the Independent, the link for which is below. ”What if you want to be a playwright in your 80’s, why can’t you be?”

Frankly, if this is what Vicky Featherstone has in store for the Court under her new directorship, things are looking up indeed…

For years I worked with Jonathan Meth and Sarah Dickenson of (now, sadly defunct) writernet – and we constantly challenged the notion that new = young. Although pretty youthful myself at the time, I was still painfully aware of the disparity in opportunity offered to the beginner performance writer, which revolved around how many years (or, rather how few) any scribbler had been on the planet. It seemed for a while that those who were rich in elastin but poor in life experience had a monopoly on any call for script development, when the hungry, eager 25 year olds (and god help the 45 plus year olds) were consigned to the scrapheap. New writing meant young in age writers. No wonder we began to introduce those clunky, worthy terms ‘young in career’, ’emerging writers’ and so on, to try and counter the endemic ageism within the profession.

For years everyone wanted ‘the new’, which meant ‘the young’, which also seemed to mean ‘the first’.  I was in my mid-20’s when I co-won The Peggy Ramsay Award for my first London production, Yard, at the Bush. I’d been writing for many years, with several BBC radio plays broadcast, two international productions, a handful of scripts produced for young audiences, and a solo presented at the Royal Court Upstairs as part of the Young Writers Festival. Despite all this hard work and experience, in the press I was still described  as ‘new, young writer wins award with her first play.’ It was clear that my long apprenticeship and years of self-sufficiency didn’t live up to the myth, the story so often paraded in our media: the overnight success; the ‘discovery’; the untutored ingenue, the young ‘natural’…

I’m sure these stories will continue – and some of them may indeed be true. I have no problem with precocious talent, and I celebrate creativity and success whatever the age. What became so wearing, especially having been one of those ‘prodigies’ bandied about myself, was it seemed to be the only story. Young in age practitioners seemed to be the only ones wanted.

I think the monopoly of youth-orientated workshops, opportunities, and development programmes may be weakening. We have had an explosion in fee-paying courses (and not just those in higher and further education and the original writers centres like Arvon and Ty Newydd, but now the Faber Academy, and the Guardian masterclasses, etc….) and it is often those who have been around a while who can afford to develop themselves. At some workshops I gave in the South West recently, the 50 plus writer was as evident as the under 25 – which personally, I think is fabulous. For years I’ve seen new plays which sparkle with potential but are sometimes thin on content. On more than a few occasions I’ve gone away thinking ‘that playwright will be really interesting in about ten years when they’ve got something to write about.’

So what might octogenarian first time playwrights write – and in what form? I hope it’s edgy and experimental – which are not exclusive to youth (our own Caryl Churchill is, after all, 74 years young). I can’t wait.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/bright-octogenarian-playwrights-wanted-royal-court-seeks-new-talent-among-over-80s-8580738.html

A new writer doesn’t mean a young one…..

Octagenarian PLaywrights wanted: Photo from The Independent newspaper

Octagenarian PLaywrights wanted: Photo from The Independent newspaper

. . . . . . ..

.

.

.

.

.

I’m grateful to my friend the writer Sandra Bendelow for bringing my attention to this…. The wonderful news that the Royal Court Theatre in London is seeking out ‘bright octogenarian writers.’ For a theatre so often associated with youth (I, amongst many, have benefitted from the development process attached to its well established  young writers programme), this is a major turning point indeed.

“The question was: ‘Why aren’t we giving those people a voice?’ ‘Vicky Featherstone says in an interview with the Independent, the link for which is below. ”What if you want to be a playwright in your 80’s, why can’t you be?”

Frankly, if this is what Vicky Featherstone has in store for the Court under her new directorship, things are looking up indeed…

For years I worked with Jonathan Meth and Sarah Dickenson of (now, sadly defunct) writernet – and we constantly challenged the notion that new = young. Although pretty youthful myself at the time, I was still painfully aware of the disparity in opportunity offered to the beginner performance writer, which revolved around how many years (or, rather how few) any scribbler had been on the planet. It seemed for a while that those who were rich in elastin but poor in life experience had a monopoly on any call for script development, when the hungry, eager 25 year olds (and god help the 45 plus year olds) were consigned to the scrapheap. New writing meant young in age writers. No wonder we began to introduce those clunky, worthy terms ‘young in career’, ’emerging writers’ and so on, to try and counter the endemic ageism within the profession.

For years everyone wanted ‘the new’, which meant ‘the young’, which also seemed to mean ‘the first’.  I was in my mid-20’s when I co-won The Peggy Ramsay Award for my first London production, Yard, at the Bush. I’d been writing for many years, with several BBC radio plays broadcast, two international productions, a handful of scripts produced for young audiences, and a solo presented at the Royal Court Upstairs as part of the Young Writers Festival. Despite all this hard work and experience, in the press I was still described  as ‘new, young writer wins award with her first play.’ It was clear that my long apprenticeship and years of self-sufficiency didn’t live up to the myth, the story so often paraded in our media: the overnight success; the ‘discovery’; the untutored ingenue, the young ‘natural’…

I’m sure these stories will continue – and some of them may indeed be true. I have no problem with precocious talent, and I celebrate creativity and success whatever the age. What became so wearing, especially having been one of those ‘prodigies’ bandied about myself, was it seemed to be the only story. Young in age practitioners seemed to be the only ones wanted.

I think the monopoly of youth-orientated workshops, opportunities, and development programmes may be weakening. We have had an explosion in fee-paying courses (and not just those in higher and further education and the original writers centres like Arvon and Ty Newydd, but now the Faber Academy, and the Guardian masterclasses, etc….) and it is often those who have been around a while who can afford to develop themselves. At some workshops I gave in the South West recently, the 50 plus writer was as evident as the under 25 – which personally, I think is fabulous. For years I’ve seen new plays which sparkle with potential but are sometimes thin on content. On more than a few occasions I’ve gone away thinking ‘that playwright will be really interesting in about ten years when they’ve got something to write about.’

So what might octogenarian first time playwrights write – and in what form? I hope it’s edgy and experimental – which are not exclusive to youth (our own Caryl Churchill is, after all, 74 years young). I can’t wait.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/bright-octogenarian-playwrights-wanted-royal-court-seeks-new-talent-among-over-80s-8580738.html