|image: Max Klinger 1857-1920: Kassandra Photo (c) http://www.maicar.com/GML/|
The dramaturg's role in American Theatre has changed over the years and can be really different depending on the theater you work for. We could probably spend a whole blog talking about this, but I digress. For The Inkwell, the dramaturg is a key voice in championing the playwright.
For The Inkwell, the dramaturg serves chiefly as a champion for the playwright. While the director is thinking about the structure of the play, the actors are thinking about their characters, and the stage manager is just trying to keep the rehearsal running smoothly, the dramaturg keeps everyone focused on what the playwright needs and wants to learn from this experience. They keep the conversations on track and they help the playwright sieve through the mountain of information and feedback they are receiving.
Below you will find Laura Esti Miller's thoughts not only on the process, but how she views the plays we worked on in March.
Included here are reflections on my work during the process:
Since I came to the Inkwell during the open call for submissions this past year, I've had the chance to be part of the development process from an early stage, which has been an incredible joy. Watching and interacting with other artists as we make progress on our own artistic journeys will never cease to inspire me and I am thrilled that, as an Inkwell dramaturg, I get to be a part of so many fascinating adventures.
One part of the process I find especially illuminating and helpful is a phone call between the playwrights, director, dramaturgs, and an Inkwell staff member -- in this case, the remarkable Anne McCaw. Not only is it a way to introduce ourselves before spending a few hours together in a rehearsal room; it is a way to make sure the team members are working towards the same goals during the rehearsal and reading.
Anne encourages the playwrights to discuss what they are currently working on within the plays, what they might be stuck on, what areas they might want to focus on for the reading. This call gives each playwright the chance to speak candidly about their work, and it gives the team the opportunity to focus on a manageable chunk of the play for the 20-minute excerpt.
Dramaturgs also get an unusual opportunity when working on these showcase readings for The Inkwell. We get to introduce each play to the audience and gush about what we love about them.
Below are the notes I shared with the audience on March 5th about cassandra by Katharine Sherman.
Katharine Sherman's cassandra is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth from Cassandra's perspective. As a young, beautiful princess of Troy, Cassandra caught the eye of the god Apollo. They make an arrangement -- Apollo grants Cassandra the blessing of foresight in exchange for sex. When Cassandra breaks her promise, Apollo retaliates by poisoning the gift he has already bestowed upon her. She will be able to see the future, but no one will believe her prophecies.
Inkwell readers loved this fresh take on the story through Katharine's eyes. We were fascinated by the way that others in the play relate to Cassandra and her perceived madness and mesmerized by just how far into the future Cassandra can see. Cassandra has the unique ability to see her own current events and future tragic events in one moment, and though she knows the inevitable outcome, she still fights for even the tiniest difference -- she holds out for hope.
In this excerpt, we focus on key moments when things "get twisted," as our playwright says. First, Apollo and Cassandra attempt a gift exchange that goes sour. Cassandra then reveals, through perhaps the-not-so-familiar tale of Cinderella just how overwhelming and devastating seeing the future can be. Cassandra has another psychological test of wills with her would-be lover Apollo, and finally, on the brink of tragedy, she is able to enjoy a few moments of unlikely friendship with her sister-in-law, Helen, the only person she knows who has been treated as badly by the gods as herself.