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Tools of the Turg

March 21, 2012

Dramaturgy, as a profession, varies from project to project.  Each assignment carries with it its own requirements based on the nature of the work being done.  For instance, Production Dramaturgy on a classic work is vastly different from New Play development Dramaturgy.  However, there some tools remain constant.

1)    Pencil – Every Dramaturg on every project should always come armed with a pencil.  I say pencil, not pen, because it is erasable!  Very often you will have to take/pass notes to and from members of the creative team that are confidential for a time.  I find it helpful to be able to completely erase a note once it is safely stored in a password protected project file on my computer.  Theatre is ever-changing and rarely slows down; that is why I suggest mechanical pencils.  You will never have to excuse yourself to sharpen it when it breaks and the fine point allows you to write small footnotes wherever necessary (especially when there are textual changes to be made to the working script).

2)    Pad – I say pad and not paper because it is most helpful to see the progression of a project as it unfolds moment-to-moment.  If you have to search for random loose-leaf pages from a month ago, you are taking time away from more important tasks and it runs the risk of breaking the continuity of the work being done.  Keep organized by keeping everything attached.

3)    Reference – As a Dramaturg you are the one to whom everyone look for answers.  Quick reference guides are extremely helpful for those random questions thrown at you.  Luckily for us we live in a technological era where information is readily available.  I can’t even count the times I’ve been saved by my Shakespeare iPhone app for those random “what does this word mean?” or “we’d like to use a sonnet, do you know of any, off-hand, that will work?” questions in rehearsal.  That’s not to say that Shakespeare is the only case where referencing is required.  Dramaturgs are often called in to collaborate on adaptations or translations.  Here it would be helpful to incorporate multi-language dictionary, thesaurus, or instant translation apps (in the old days a turg would have to carry these in book form, which made for very painful travel to and from rehearsals).

4)    3-Ring Binder – Every Dramaturg has their “book.”  You fill your binder with such important stuff as: Script, research (playwright bio, historical context, production history, character analysis, etc.), notes, textual variations, and anything else that may pop up during the process.  True most of the filler for this tool is acquired only after you have been working on the project a while, but showing up with a Binder filled with your prep work on the first day or even at the first pre-production meeting definitely shows your professionalism.  You will notice your teammates confidence in you and your work shoot up.  I’ve even had directors request copies of my Binders for other productions they’re considering.

5)    Library Card – As a Dramaturg you will find, more often than not, that the internet is NOT the all-knowing, all-powerful entity it claims to be.  Many books have not been converted to an electronic format; especially those regarding theatre history, criticism, and theory.  Therefore, you will have to venture into your local Library.  Unfortunately, Libraries, unlike the internet, have “hours of operation” that may conflict with your schedule.  I find it very helpful to look up the books you need online first then have them made available at the Library closest to you so that you may arrange a convenient time to collect them.  Library books can be renewed online as well, making it easy to hold on to them for the duration of any given project.  In order to access any of the aforementioned facets, you will need a Library Card.  Get one.

Of course, all of these tools are only as useful as you make them.  A 3-Ring binder is worthless empty, just as a Pad is of no value blank.  The dramaturgical gear listed above has helped me stay focused, organized, and on point with every project I’ve had the privilege of working on.  Have you used these tools in your work?  What are your tools of the Dramaturgy trade?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2012 5:23 pm

    I love how simple your tools are, and yet, I know from watching your work, that you do INCREDIBLE things! Makes me even more impressed with your dramaturgical wizardry 🙂

  2. Daria Cullen permalink
    March 28, 2012 8:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing your tools of the trade! Great advice here that can be easily applied. How do I get emails when you post? I love this blog!

    • March 28, 2012 8:16 pm

      There is a sign-up for Email Subscription at the top right of the page, Daria! Hope you’re well 🙂

      • Daria Cullen permalink
        March 28, 2012 8:19 pm

        Yes, thank you, realized that AFTER I posted! 🙂

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