Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Dramaturgy Database Analysis Part 3: What does dramaturgy mean to artists?

It is perhaps ironic that the most direct questions about dramaturgy reveal a confusion about what the word means. When Tim Crouch is asked about the 'relevance' of dramaturgy in his work, he replies

It sounds like dramaturgy is integral to my work, although the word itself rarely appears in my process.

Ciaran Myers adds

I don’t like the word “dramaturgy” because I prefer to think of myself as more of an artist than an organizer.
While Angry Puffin are more elliptical.

Ask yourself why anyone writes a play. Ask yourself why people go to see plays, why Art is important, why the loss of Art is a disaster. Ask yourself why the heart beats.

And before going on to give a very thoughtful and detailed answer, Laura Ingram claims

In all honesty, I haven't ever given the concept of dramaturgy much thought. 

Within this sample, then, dramaturgy is not a word that has particular currency. Although Ingram and Crouch go on to recognise how the definition given by Vile ('decisions that define and shape performance') does apply to their processes, the idea of dramaturgy as a category of thought is secondary to their actual making process. 

Nevertheless, the artists often grapple with the question and identify strands within their process that appear to come under this broad definition. Somewhat reluctantly, Myers admits that

I can’t deny that dramaturgy is the alpha and omega of everything I do. This play in particular leans on the relationship between actor and performer.

connecting the choices made in the making with the eventual reception of Touch. Joan Cleville, meanwhile, is far more comfortable with dramaturgy and, like Crouch, sees it as a structuring approach to his choreography.

It helps me to define the parameters of each piece: what is possible or impossible inside the reality of each work. There is also a sense of dramatic journey in everything I create, and dramaturgy offers me inside clues about the overall structure of the work. 

Cleville appears to be using 'dramaturgy' to mean a 'mode of thinking about the production': the emphasis on structure suggests an overview of Plan B. This is echoed in Mike Chao's answer, which describes his magic show's narrative.

For my show, its not about the technique of my hands , the "green objects" in my act, is just like a kind of magic power, they give me energy to do something incredible just like magic.

So, in the end of the routine, the greens change to white, just like I lost my power, and the show is done.

Tim Crouch elaborates on his appreciation of dramaturgy by noting that when he makes a piece, he considers it in a performance context from the start: the stage is part of his thinking even as he puts words on the page. Like Gary McNair, Crouch frequently performs his own scripts (An Oak Tree, which he bought back to the Fringe in 2015 features him alongside a different actor every evening), and the easy dividing line between playwright and performer is challenged. Within their dramaturgical process, then, the actual physical performance is considered alongside the text. 

It is possibly these responses, which betray a suspicion of dramaturgy as a concept but provide a precise awareness of its use, that encouraged Vile's later subdivision of questions with more emphasis on the audience response in relation to the performers' intentions. 

Yet within this limited sample, two ideas come across very clearly: dramaturgy is concerned with the structure of a performance, and that it concerns the response of an audience to a show. Only Cleville considers it as an engagement with characterisation and subtexts - both of which are concerned with the internal world of the performance, even though they are key to the communication with the audience. 

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