Drama-who?

The question came from one of the back rows of my freshman level intro to theatre class in response to the first discussion of the dramaturg’s role in the theatrical process. The tone was a mixture of confusion and disbelief (that can’t be a real word, it seemed to say): “Drama-who?”

It is a real word, and the dramaturg may be the most important element of pre-production preparations; the dramaturgical research informs the work the director, actors and designers will do throughout the rehearsal process.

Simply put, a dramaturg provides the context for the play. This can include the historical background of the time and place the play takes place in, the history of the script itself and the playwright who wrote it, and the meaning behind specific references.

Our dramaturg for Spinning into Butter is Cheryl Scofield (she did a fantastic job in that role for The Sweetest Swing in Baseball as well), and these are some of the questions she asked and issues she focused on as she started her research for this project:

  • What is life like on an older New England college campus? What would the academic environment be like? What regulations, traditions, etc. would they have?
  • What is the hiring process for professors and administrators at a school like Belmont College?
  • Overview of Nuyorican culture and history
  • Incidents of racially motivated crimes on college campuses
  • Background of African-American literature in general, focusing on specific authors and books mentioned in the script
  • Literature on race relations from different cultural perspectives
  • Overview of specific courses mentioned in script (i.e. Art Appreciation)

This is a small sampling of the issues raised by the script, and the questions the director, designers and actors have been exploring for the last few months. These are some of the issues we’ll be talking about at our post-show discussions as well (starting next weekend as I write this), and I’ll be sharing some of Cheryl’s research here to add to that conversation.

The purpose of this blog is to give our audience the opportunity to be a part of the conversation anytime – leave us comments, ask questions, share your thoughts and answers, suggest discussion topics, and join us for a post-show discussion at the theatre during the run. We’re in previews tonight and tomorrow, we open Monday night, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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