Thursday, 9 July 2015

Since Dramaturgy Went Away (2): Lora Mander @ Edfringe 2015

Lora Mander-Director/Dramaturg of Since Maggie Went Away 
Lora Mander is co-director and co-founder of Orange Tea Theatre, an English-language theatre company in Amsterdam focusing on new writing.

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I always enjoy working collaboratively with writers, creators and actors, and dramaturgy is usually a good way to bind those crafts together. If you know the piece is going to change and evolve, nobody comes into the rehearsal with too much pre-conception of how it's going to turn out. Just just hope that it gets to the best! 

If you're devising a piece, or even just working on a new play, it's important that everyone is on the same page.

Dramaturgy also allows for the constant editing of work and you can work out questions such as, Is it actionable for the actor? Is the work still telling a story, or is there too much exposition? Is there a dramatic climax? Just to name a few....

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I've always been an inside-out kind of director in that I don't necessarily have a big concept that I want to bring the play to, rather I want the acting to be superb, in the moment, and clear. I'm a practical director, so I've always found Katie Mitchell's approach (or my Bible, The Director's Craft) very useful. I also connected a lot to Mike Alfred's Different Every Night. Of course, with new writing, it's also very good to work out some of the problems with improvisation. As a dramaturg, improvisation is key because it's a way for us to step away from the words and see if better words can come of it. Visually, I've always loved Robert LePage and the zaniness of Richard Jones's work.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
For me, there is collaboration from the start. I always feel you get the best out of an actor if they intuit the script. In the case with Since Maggie Went Away, Jacqueline wrote all of the script, but we would get to parts in rehearsal where it just wasn't moving, or the descriptions got in the way of the drama, and it just wasn't working for either of us. So you work it out by trying it different ways, improvising it to find the parts that stick the most, then re-writing.

It's also very important to not lose sight of what the bigger picture of the story is. Why are you telling this? What is the most important thing we're going to say here? And then work out the best ways to highlight that. 

In Since Maggie Went Away, it was important that we draw the story from personal experience to the wider picture. One of the things we further developed was the idea that Eleanor not only investigates her own story, but that of the many mothers and children who were left behind.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience is who you're making the play for, so if it moves them, or provokes conversation, then we've succeeded. You want them to talk to you about the subject matter (not that that big light on stage left distracted them). Furthermore, you want them to talk to their friends about it, too. 

credit: Karolina Joniek
 In terms of dramaturgy, it's also very good to get feedback from new and old audiences. Maggie had three different incarnations, all of which were very different. Jacqueline and I focused a lot on what people liked, and what needed clarification, and by our latest performance, I believe we've achieved just that.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?Not that I can think of!

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