Monday, 5 January 2015

Task 4a (Part Two)

Following my read through of the materials for the first part of module two, and after beginning task four, I thought it might be useful for me to look back at Task 2d, and try to answer the Inquiry questions from the viewpoint of my intended practice.

When I first worked on this task I was relating the questions to my current professional practice, but as this will shortly be my 'past' practice, I believe it will be more beneficial for me to focus on the career I *want* rather than the career I have *had*

My only experience of Dramaturgy has been through my reading and research, and through conversations with my current professional network. I have made attempts to connect with current practitioners in the field in order to expand my network and my knowledge of the industry.

Please be aware, therefore, that many of my opinions and impressions may be completely wrong!

Some of the reading I've been doing!



What Questions Do You Have?
From my reading I have formed the opinion that Dramaturgy is still a relatively unknown practice in the UK. It began, as we know it, with Gotthold Lessing in around 1767, and apparently in Europe it is a well known and respected position within a theatrical establishment.

So my first question would be, "Why?" Why is Dramaturgy not as well known in the United Kingdom? Through my research it seems to me to be because acts of dramaturgy are already being undertaken by various members of a production team, so maybe there is no need felt to hire an individual to take on responsibilities that are already held elsewhere.* However from what I have found out, there is an intense need in many areas of theatre for an individual to take on this role; to provide an unbiased eye, to take on research projects, to bring together a team, and to have a depth of knowledge of a production that can be shared with the rest of the unit and from there to an audience.

I did initially have the question "Can acts of dramaturgy enhance Cabaret performance?" as a way of attempting to relate my past experience. However as I continued to read I decided that this convention of theatrical practice has no place within Cabaret; the audiences don't know or care about the deeper meaning behind an act or whether the costume is historically appropriate. I feel that dramaturgy and similar theatrical practices would only serve to obscure and muddy a cabaret performance.

I found this lovely article that serves to highlight how beneficial Dramaturgy can be within various aspects of the industry.

*For example, one of the possible tasks a dramaturg might undertake is to research the era a director may want to base a production in (i.e. 1950's America); it would be the dramaturgs' role to know everything about the fashions, politics, societal influences, etc, of that era in order to avoid anachronisms or errors in translation. However, some would argue that this is the directors' responsibility, or that of the actor playing the role.

I'm not sure how beneficial acts of dramaturgy would be within an art form that relies on satire, parody and deliberate anachronism.
Image Source: High Tease


Do you see practice that makes you question your ethical code of practice or your personal sense of relatively appropriate behaviour?
Having had no first hand experience of the industry I couldn't answer this unfortunately!


What in your daily practice gets you really enthusiastic to find out more? Who do you admire who also works with what makes you enthusiastic?
From my reading and research I am quite excited about a couple of the different aspects that constitute a Dramaturg's job; researching the background to a play would be fascinating, finding out about past productions and the impact both society may have had on the original production or vice versa. I have also found out about an area of the role called 'Dance Dramaturgy' which I am keen to find out more about.

Through conversation with my professional network I have also found that often dramaturgs work with performers to develop the 'story' behind a particular dance (or in my contacts case, circus) routine. I love the idea of working to develop storytelling and artistic technique in a performer while keeping the choreography and aesthetic strong.

Dramaturgs I admire include Ben Power, who works at The National Theatre in London, Lisa Goldman, who was listed as one of the 1000 most influential people in London by The Evening Standard, and Katalin Trencsenyi who founded the Dramaturgs' Network.

Image Source: losangeles.bitter-lemons.com


What gets you angry or makes you sad? Who do you admire who shares your feelings or has found a way to work around the sadness or anger?
Again, this is a difficult one to answer as I have no experience to draw on.

I suppose what is making me frustrated (more than angry or sad) at the moment is my lack of experience and that I'm finding it difficult to make connections.

Several of the contacts within my wider professional network have, in the past, come up against a lack of experience; a group of acting graduates from a leading drama school found that their training hadn't adequately prepared them for a particular area of the industry so they formed their own production group to both produce shows of a particular genre, and to allow graduates or graduating students opportunities in this area. I definitely admire the tenacity and will of these students to create their own opportunities rather than feeling that an entire area of theatre was off limits to them due to a lack of training or experience. 


What do you love about what you do? Who do you admire who also seems to love this or is an example of what you love?
So far through my reading I am loving that the remit of a Dramaturg is so wide-ranging; working with playwrights, translators, directors, designers; working as a researcher, an observer and a critic; acting as the impartial eye to make sure a script makes sense or a production runs seamlessly; taking part in audience feedback sessions to discuss the impact of a production or assisting with writing the programme; it seems like such a multi-faceted, unpredictable role!

The examples of practitioners above mentioned are those I admire for working within this role.

Image Source: meetville.com


What do you feel you don't understand? Who do you admire who does seem to understand it or found a way of making not understanding it interesting or beautiful, or has asked the same questions as you?
There is a lot I don't understand! My knowledge of Dramaturgy is still theoretical rather than practical so I don't understand really how the role functions in a 'real life' situation. Before I could answer this question fully I would definitely need to gain some first hand experience!

I suppose that's one of the things that I don't understand; how to gain the experience. If I had more free time I could look into volunteering or undertaking an internship with a theatre or theatre company. However I have very little time off as I am currently in a full-time job and much of my free time is taken up with work for the course, reading and research, I am still performing a little on occasional weekends, and trying to find time to fit in a social life! Many of the volunteer or intern opportunities on offer require much more time commitment than I am currently able to give. Despite this I have attempted to make contact with a couple of practitioners to see whether they would allow me to volunteer with them for a day or two each week to assist them with any projects or research in exchange for the experience of the industry.

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Conclusion
Working back on this task hasn't necessarily helped me figure out any routes of inquiry, but it has enabled me to work through why I am attracted to this career path and make sense of some of the roadblocks I've felt I've been coming up against.

I may still look for ways to tie in my previous experience; as I mentioned earlier I didn't feel that Dramaturgy had much to offer to Cabaret. Although cabaret is traditionally a satirical, slightly political art form, the modern interpretation of it borrows much more from the showgirls. I have seen politically motivated cabaret acts, and much of the time it fails to engage the audience in the way it was intended; if the performer is not playing to a politically or socially savvy audience, the meaning behind the act can fall flat and the performance becomes purely about the aesthetic rather than the background.

I have worked on an act in the past that I was extremely proud of; the aim of the routine was to burlesque Burlesque; I performed a very 'classic' routine, using music, choreography and costuming that was extremely cliched and predictable. However, over the top of the music I recorded my 'internal monologue' detailing some of the things a performer might think about while they are on stage; I wanted to reveal the 'truth' of our thoughts while we might be looking alluring or 'sexy' on stage:c

Excerpts from 'Psyche'

While the act was wonderfully received within the cabaret community, I have only performed it twice; this is because it is a very difficult act to place within the context of a show - it can't go last because it's not *big* enough to close a show, and it can't go first because it undermines everything that comes after it. It relies too much on an audience both listening and being 'au-fait' with Cabaret and Burlesque performance, and parts of the script depend on certain audience conditions. So it is tricky. Many acts that rely on assuming a certain level of audience knowledge or understanding come up against this problem and therefore many aspects of burlesque have come to embody a purely aesthetic form of entertainment.

I do feel that a couple of the elements I've touched on in this blog do bear further thought and development and I shall reflect on this in my blog while I work further through the tasks.


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