Goodness Grace-ious me!

Post #3! And it’s only…um…2 weeks since my last post! Oops I should probably pick up the posting pace.

Anyways! I’m here in D.C. for the week, seeking new intellectual stimulation at the fabulous [read as: intimidating] Library of Congress. I know that for everyone who lives near D.C. (so 90% of William & Mary) this may be a “duh” moment, but THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS IS ENORMOUS, YOU GUYS. I roamed for a full 40 minutes just trying to go through the necessary steps to be able to research and then finding a place to do said research. Also, I’ve been here for 8 hours and have wandered back and forth between three buildings WITHOUT STEPPING OUTSIDE. There’s a warren of tunnels underneath that connect the whole Library campus and you can stride confidently (if you’re someone who knows where they’re going) or scurry back and forth (if you’re me) from building to building without ever having to deal with that pesky sun.

Thanks for bearing with me through that. I know you all knew about this already, but country mouse is very excited to be in the big city.

So work on my second play (Grace by Mick Gordon and A.C. Grayling) is going very well. Grace is very different from How the World Began; whereas the latter is very linear, with a clear progression of tension and plot, Grace plays around with space, time, and reality. The play is about the titular character, an ardent naturalist who sees all religion as at best foolish and at worst dangerous, and her son, who declares one day that he wants to become an Anglican priest.  That’s the simple description. It’s also about the intersection of faith and science, the human need to question, and mankind’s capacity for extraordinary kindness and unspeakable violence. And curry. There’s also curry.

It’s a lot, is what I’m trying to say. My work on How the World Began has definitely been very helpful in knowing how to approach the text and what to look for in terms of how the play is constructed and the techniques the playwrights used to create the story.

Something that has been very challenging throughout the research is the fact that dramaturgs are supposed to play a supporting role, rather than leading. For instance, a dramaturg should support and encourage another’s vision–that of the playwright, or the director, or the production company–rather than create the vision themselves. This is very different from the kinds of theatrical analysis and research that I have conducted before; when writing essays for my theatre classes I am in charge of every step–choose the play, choose what I want to focus on, choose my thesis, and defend it as I see fit. As a dramaturg, my goal is to support and defend someone else’s thesis.

Within the context of an actual production, this would not be as challenging–or rather, it would still require some adjustment, but I would have the thesis provided for my by the director. For the purposes of my summer research, however, the productions are purely hypothetical–there is no playwright or director stating their vision for me to support and develop. This creates a somewhat tricky situation, as I am hesitant to overanalyze or choose one interpretation to the exclusion of others. How I’ve handled it so far is by noting important features of the text–symbols, character development, themes–describing how they fit in the context of the play, and providing several possible interpretations while refraining from promoting one conclusion over another. My hope is that this method will thoroughly familiarize me with exploring all the possibilities of a theatrical text, so that when I work on an actual production next year for my thesis I will be prepared to provide the director with textual support and inspiration for whatever interpretation he chooses.

So all in all I am greatly enjoying my current work on Grace, and I can already see how my understanding of dramaturgical analysis has grown from the beginning of the semester. Here’s looking forward to two more weeks!

Comments

  1. This all sounds super fascinating, and the work you’re doing seems really strong. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a bunch of amazing dramaturgs this summer, and one of the practical things they have taught me is how important asking the right question can be. While directors often ask questions of playwrights and actors that will probably lead them more or less to the director’s interpretation of the play, a dramaturg should (at least in theory) be able to ask a truly neutral question that opens up a new line of thought for the creative team. Might asking some of those questions (hypothetically, since as you note you have no actual production team) help you through some of the dramaturgical struggles you’ve had?