Frequently Asked Questions

 
 

Dramaturgical work is adaptable, commonplace, and essential to a thriving popular theater. 

Part of my job is answering questions to demystify what we do and how we do it. Here are some common ones.

Have more questions? Ask away! »

 

WHAT DOES THE WORD "DRAMATURGY" EVEN MEAN?

Loosely, it's the study of how plays are made, the contexts in which they're produced,  and the process by which they engage audiences and communities.

OKAY...SO WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO?

Dramaturgy is like medicine or law: people practice it lots of different ways. One dramaturg might work with playwrights to develop new plays; another might teach literary criticism or theater history at a university. Some of us become critics while others pursue careers in literary management or publishing. A production dramaturg prepares and tracks changes in the text for performance, conducts research for the actors, and writes program notes. Writer-dramaturgs translate plays, edit play anthologies, and submit articles for academic peer review. Many of us are audience and community engagement specialists – you know, those people who moderate post-show Q&As with artists or host special lectures. At various points we may act as agents and advocates, festival producers, and even directors. We come from diverse backgrounds but tend to be highly analytical; impeccably organized; and articulate enough to convey complex ideas in clear, concise language. 

Above all, dramaturgs ask useful questions.

ARE DRAMATURGS THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE ROOM? 

I hope not. Smartest Person In the Room is usually a terminal position.

DO DRAMATURGS HAVE A UNION?

Teachers, grad students,  playwrights,  screenwriters, actors, and other theater professionals may have guilds or unions by discipline. Our closest thing to a dramaturg-specific union is Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA), a very rad member service organization you ought to check out.

"TURG" OR "TURGE"? HARD G OR SOFT?

We don't care. But, "turg" and hard g because I like them.

 

IS THERE AN INDUSTRY STANDARD FOR FREELANCE DRAMATURGY RATES?

LMDA has published Employment Guidelines which stipulate that "...[t]he dramaturg’s role and responsibilities can be as primary as those of directors and designers. ...Fees must always reflect and be appropriate to the level of the dramaturg’s creative input, responsibility, time commitment, and industry standing." My sliding-scale fees reflect these guidelines, but are tempered by my commitment to working with artists from diverse economic and geographic backgrounds. 

CAN YOU HELP ME FIX MY PLAY?

I don't believe your play is broken. I can ask questions and make observations that help you clarify your goals for its development and move it closer to whatever "success" looks like for you. 

I SEE YOU WENT TO SCHOOL IN THE NORTHEAST. ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE POLITICALLY CORRECT ANGRY FEMINIST TYPES?

Yes.

DO YOU PREFER A CERTAIN KIND OF CLIENT OR PROJECT?

As a dramaturg I seek to advance the work of womxn, people of color, members of the disabled community, indigenous and native people, and our many incarcerated neighbors in the Appalachian region. I love plays by people who don't feel they belong one place or the other. But I see the value in all kinds of stories and have worked with every type of artist you can imagine. My only requirements are that you listen carefully, honor our time commitments,  and actively engage in our collaboration.

WE LIVE PRETTY FAR APART. CAN I STILL HIRE YOU?

Yes! Depending on available resources, I can travel or connect us via technology. Many of my services can be performed digitally. Zoom is a great teleconferencing tool that allows us to work face-to-face, Google suite allows us to share and organize documents, and consistent check-ins by phone or email keep the collaborative juices flowing.

WHAT IF we MEET BUT DECIDE not to collaborate?

I can probably refer you to a fellow dramaturg who might better suit your needs.