Monday, December 11, 2006

The urge to dramaturge

Saturday's rehearsal was funny.

One would think that after developing this project (Kill Me Like You Mean It) over the course of 5 months, with a director, playwright, dramaturg, 3 designers, and 5 performers combing over all 17 drafts of the script, one of us would have noticed that the climax of the play was more or less unstage-able. Somehow, it took actually seeing the guns in the actors' hands to realize that there were some pretty significant dramaturgical issues with the scene. And since I'm nearly certain that Emily Otto is the best production dramaturg who has ever helped birth a new work, it's just a symptom of how incredibly complicated it is to make a structurally coherent noir (one element of noir which we consciously decided not to emulate was the Big Sleep-style labyrinthine plot in which the mystery is actually so difficult to follow that it becomes dull).

So, with 3 actors on stage and a director, playwright, and dramaturg sitting in the house, we had to collectively bail out the sinking scene. First the actors and I tried to find a physical solution to the problem. That just created more problems and all of a sudden we found we had even more we needed to explain away. But luckily, since the playwright was in the room, we were able, right there in the moment, to see if a few script changes could make the scene work. And then, since the dramaturg was sitting right next to the playwright, we were able to get confirmation from her that the line changes and subsequent directorial choices were structurally sound and stylistically consistent with the rest of the play.

Though it certainly wasn't one of those happy-go-lucky-kumbaya-collective-creation-lovefests that our company is wont to have, it was one of the clearest reminders for me (in recent memory) why we've chosen to work the way we have. I mean, really, how do other directors do it? Unless they feel comfortable rewriting a playwright's words to serve their staging needs, how do they slog through the challenges of mounting a new work? If you're out there in the blogosphere and you're a director or playwright or dramaturg who has had to salvage unstage-able scenes in a original work, post and let us know how this all works when one doesn't have the luxury of having the entire creative team on hand at all times...

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