At first encounter, it’s a terrifying word. The first time I came across the title I was still at school, and had just become angrily aware of the existence of Ben Power, a person who somehow had my ideal job. Now the first ever deputy artistic director at the National Theatre, at that point he was writing, adapting, working with Headlong and Complicite, and among other things delivering a ‘new version’ of Medea for the National. I couldn’t quite see how he’d done it, but he was undeniably there, in amongst the thick of it, some instrumental part of what was going on, and I even envied him for that maddeningly distinctive name. His Wikipedia page described him as a ‘dramaturg’. I had to look it up.
I’d found something that I wanted, though I didn’t say the word to anyone for several years. It was embarrassing. But years later, after taking up different roles in theatre as a young adult, I edged towards that word again, and I now try to describe myself with that (and ‘playwright’), when I’ve got the nerve. You can now study dramaturgy at numerous universities and drama schools, though having thrown away money on one degree, I can’t quite justify another.
So it’s still me and this word, trying to feel each other out.
In the sessions and workshops I’ve been lucky enough to take part in with others about dramaturgy, two issues tend to come up time and again: the definition of this imposing term, and how to carve a career out and survive financially having adopted it for yourself. Enough has been written and argued about what falls under the remit of the dramaturg – whether it’s working in a more German curatorial and commissioning capacity attached to a theatre, developing concepts with research, examining a script or being in the rehearsal room asking the awkward questions – so as I’d like to live and work as one, taking a look at the second issue presses on me more.
Read the complete article by Frey Kwa Hawking on Exeunt.
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