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Workshop at the Children's Theatre Company with the Director of New Play Development, Elissa Adams.

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Comment by Devyn Terry on May 19, 2017 at 10:13am

Before this workshop, I had never heard of dramaturgy - let alone how to pronounce it. The definition of dramaturgy that I liked best was, "How is the story adapted to the stage?" In the example of Fun Home, the dramaturgy was very interesting. As I was watching the show, I noticed that Fun Home was unique in how the graphic novel aspect unfolded onstage, and how older Alison watched her own story, but I didn't realize there was a word to encompass all of that. I saw the movie Matilda once, a long time ago, so I vaguely remember the flashback parts. I agree that flashbacks tend to work better on the screen than on the stage. Since this video pointed it out, it does make more sense for Matilda to go to the library to tell the escape artist story instead of telling it through flashbacks. It was funny watching this video and every time the topic of The Bodyguard came up, everyone would start laughing. I've never seen the movie The Bodyguard, but the dramaturgy of The Bodyguard did not come across as very creative, especially in comparison to the more daring dramaturgy of Fun Home.

Comment by Maria Spack on May 21, 2017 at 11:29am
Dramatugy is the skeleton of a play. Without it the actors and directors would not have anything to go off of. It is how all the pieces of a story are put on stage. It was interesting listening to how plays that are adapted have less freedom while new pieces have complete freedom in how they want to be portrayed. Curious Incident was a unique example because the book itself is told in the mind of Christoper. By having his teacher narrate the story they were at risk of losing Christopher's voice. They compensated for it by reading his book. Through the story being read you get his blunt, scientific voice without being overwhelmed with it for the entire play or losing it entirely. With Cabarat the dramaturges had less feedom because it is such a well known play and everyone has an expectation of how it is. They have to almost stick to the script and not stray to far from how it has been performed in the past. When reviewing a play the way that the actors and directors work with the dramaturgy is something to be noted. If they seem not in sync with the message the dramaturge is trying to get across in the way the production was organized then we fell like there is something off.
Comment by Anika Besst on May 21, 2017 at 3:23pm

Dramaturgy now puts a name to a step that has been in every show I've seen or been apart of. I liked her metaphor of it being the bones of the show. It is asking and finding answers to the basic but essential questions like how many acts should this show be performed in, literary elements, story structure, duration (episodic, or the whole 2 hours for the actors the same as the audience), or language being used to tell the play. Going off this metaphor of bones she called the theme, message, and story (what one takes away) the 'meat' of the show since, if dramaturgy is done correctly, that is what the show is ultimately about and being made for. It was interesting to think about how if any specific show was either made/adapted into a play instead of musical or vice versa, how it would change the message. Similar to either elongating a show or shortening it and how that would change the effect it had on viewers.

I did not realize every show we've seen has been an adaption. This is very interesting to look at since they all have been very famous, and that is probably a big part of why they are touring shows. Like Ms. Adams said a dramture's job for an existing show is much different than for a non-existing show. This plays an important part for the shows we've seen since they have much less freedom of creation if it's a prior work. However within this spectrum there's a wide range of choices each show can make. For example the King and I can make fewer choices than a show like Fun Home or Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time since there is a movie version and has been a musical for over half a century.

 I found her statement about the importance of specialization in theatre jobs true since more focused work can be accomplished. From an actor's standpoint it would be very interesting to work with a dramature since they know the history of the playwright and the show and they understand the artistic decisions but they're not necessarily making the new choices in the production.

Comment by Linnea Stanton on May 22, 2017 at 3:58pm

To me, the most important part of dramaturgy is all about choices. I never really considered the fact someone has to sit down and actively decide whether a production is going to be a play or musical, one act or five, throughout the entire creative process. I knew this all happened, but it's never really talked about. I think it's cool there is someone who's entire job is to make big, production changing decisions. I also never realized how this is different than the writer or composer or director. 

I really liked the conversation about Fun Home. It was something I noticed away when I first heard the music, that were was no intermission. I remember there was tons of talk about the fact there are three Alisons. It's interesting to think about what the musical would have been like if it were a traditional musical with a different narrator. It was also interesting to think about the difference between a new show, an adaption and a revival. For an example The King and I is written to have two acts and a very specific message, so there is less need for dramaturgy. This might be where there is more focus on shifting the choreography, costume or technical aspects to bring it to life. On the other hand, an adaptation like Fun Home requires many more choices/decisions to be made, yet there is still some structure to be followed. 

Comment by Claire Mathews-Lingen on May 23, 2017 at 9:36am

I did not have a definition for dramaturgy before watching this, dramaturgy "Getting a play to the stage," while it is a broad definition I think it sums it up. The bones of the play. The dramaturgy first lives in the script, then the message, the setting, the story (these are the meat). The dramaturgy is the "how." 

5:33 minutes in, best part. 

There are historical dramaturgy structures, such as in Shakespeare's time when the 5 act play was typical. 

How does the dramaturgy pull out the importance of the story? I would like to think about that in my next review. Wow, almost all of the shows we've seen this year have been adaptations. 

I liked that she used passages about the shows we have seen this year. 

"Life doesn't happen in moments, but that's how we remember it sometimes," I like this thought about the storytelling of Fun Home, capturing the moments. 

Overall very interesting workshop and discussion, I thought she was good at answering questions and I liked that she was rooted in the shows we've seen this year. 

Comment by Ruby Schroeder on May 23, 2017 at 4:04pm

This was so interesting.  I had never heard of Dramaturgy before and I think I have grasped the idea of the job a Dramaturg has.  At the beginning, I was still reaching for a definition that would stick and make borders in my head of what a Dramaturg is.  When Elissa started giving examples, that's when it started to click.  As a fiction writer I'm always looking for systems to give my stories a structure so as to not have an episodic or pointless feel that is so often the case for armature or new writers.  It is cool to see that there are jobs in this field so you can be creative and productive in this way and not be a screenplay, an author, or an editor.

Comment by Talia Wendlandt on May 24, 2017 at 7:14pm

It was so interesting to learn the true definition of dramaturgy, rather than simply relying on my vague ideas about it. Having the entire structure of a play perched on someone's shoulders seems too important of a role to be so often brushed over when discussing production crews of shows. Hearing Elissa speak about the differences between accenting the structure of a show that has little room for interpretation and working intimately with a playwright on a show that is still being workshopped was fascinating. Having two completely different careers stemming from the same job title is such a unique instance. When Elissa drew attention to the fact that every musical we had seen this season was an adaptation from another media, I was shocked I hadn't noticed. I think it's an importamt realization how common adaptations are in today's world because of all the musical theatre that has come before us. The way this changes dramaturgy is interesting as well because the research that can be done grows incredibly. As she brought up the inquiries about things that would have to change to make a successful show from a book or a movie or an album (Mamma Mia), I thought about the incredible feat of transferring written words to songs that could move the story along just as effectively. In the case of the Bodyguard, there were some adaptation issues within the musical, with the script specifically and it's interesting to think about what different choices could have been made to make a better musical. Overall, this workshop made me think about the power of adaptations within  theatre and the importance of people like dramaturgs who can effectively and efficiently do that. 

Comment by Ella Padden on May 28, 2017 at 1:03pm

This seemed like a very interesting workshop because  I don't dramaturgy is something thats really discussed. I had no idea what it even was until this workshop. Dramaturgy defined as "the architecture" of a play was really interesting to me. It put more of the process of creating a show into perspective to me and how all the parts have to come together. The message, setting, and story all have to be communicated to the audience to get the full effect of the play. 

Especially with older plays like "The King and I", the idea of using dramaturgy to try to take it from possibly offensive to having more of a focus on the core story and true meaning and intention of the original story tellers is really cool. Yes, modern adaptions of musicals like "The King and I" will always be touchy because of the original writers and the time it was written in, but there are ways, using dramaturgy, that you can potentially adapt the story to make it more acceptable. Or, like Elissa said, you can use dramaturgy to take the original message and meaning and create a new play that reflects that message and meaning in a modern time. 

Comment by Bella West on May 31, 2017 at 3:52pm

When I first heard about this workshop, I had no idea what ‘dramaturgy’ was. I really enjoyed how the first part of the workshop was opened up to the entire room to find a definition and a general understanding of what dramaturgy means and what it is as a whole. Something that came up the most as a definition was how theatre or a play gets to the stage. Then, Elissa gave a more concrete definition in a metaphorical sense about how dramaturgy is how the show is put together using its “bones” as she called it. This really made me think back to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and how elaborately the whole company and production team of this show built off of the bones of play itself. The dramaturgy of this show was really stunning and really helped to convey the overall themes of this show. Dramaturgy is really based on decisions that will convey the story the best and the way that the story was set up in The Curious Incident with scenes that played into the mind of Christopher with elaborate blocking and lighting versus the times where it was very simple and dark, showed a great contrast in Christopher’s life, helping to understand the shows overall message. This workshop was so interesting to watch and I feel like I now have a greater understanding of the process of making theatre that will captivate the audience while staying true to the core of the show.

Comment by Gabriela Leovan on June 4, 2017 at 10:14pm

Learning what dramaturgy is was half the battle in this workshop the rest was defining it.  I have always found the concept of structuring pieces of work like plays, musicals, and novels very interesting especially since writing structure, like POV etc, eludes me. It was interesting to me that she considered revivals as adaptations which had never occurred to me before. Overall the broad scope of what dramaturgy means and does astounded me. I liked the part when they discussed how the duration affects the story. When they were discussing Romeo and Juliet the points about the number of acts and how that effects emphasis points in the story I found it cool. The discussion about translating a work into a play, or musical was interesting as well as it talked about manipulating the style. While I didn't see Fun Home the idea of three Alisons was a new way to take on the graphic novel gone musical. Changes like this along with the new POV adaptation of Curious incident vitally change the story and how it is received. It brings forth ideas realised in Matilda like telling the story at the library and I was critically thinking about how I can apply this to my writing as dramaturgy seems applicable anywhere due to its wide scope. You can follow the rules, or experiemnt like Fun House.

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