Acts of dramaturgy: the dramaturgical turn in contemporary performance
2017-02-20T10:12:22Z (GMT) by
This doctoral study examines the evolving role of the dramaturg in the British contemporary performance scene from 2000-2015. In 1999, the role was seen in the UK as a luxury, not an essential; now the same companies are working with dramaturgs, often within an academic context, as the funding culture has shifted from Arts Council England to the Academy. This study proceeds through a combination of practice as research and a contextual survey of the role s recent history taken from readings, interviews and a narrative of personal experience. As John Freeman writes, Research is also always re-search: a drawing on one s previous experience and developing this into knowledge . I arrive at new knowledge about the dramaturg s current position in a shifting landscape by inhabiting both the role and the landscape. John Berger suggests that to understand a landscape we have to situate ourselves in it. The doctoral study seeks to do this through practice, research and practice as research. I devised three performances - The Trilogy (2014). Their non-linearity is relevant to the line of investigation I took into the role of the dramaturg today, both inviting and playing the role. The practice as research applies different theoretical models of how a dramaturg operates to a body of theatre work that interrogates the role from different perspectives. The practice asks how dramaturgy might function with or without a dramaturg as an agent for critical feedback or meaning-making by exploring other models such as embedded criticism, work-in-progresses and post-show discussions. The performance work attempts to put the dramaturg onstage and in so doing explores what he / she does as part of the theatre event to make it happen. The project is concerned with making visible the textual trace of dramaturgy within the work. As such, I have written a thesis on the dramaturgy of my practice that questions notions of proximity and distance, objectivity and subjectivity, self and other. The thesis documents how the role has evolved over the last 15 years and argues that it has had a significant, tangible impact on the British contemporary performance scene. Through an understanding of the role, the dramaturg, outside of a traditional writer-director paradigm, becomes an application with which to deconstruct and decode the tropes and contradictions of contemporary performance. I posit that dramaturgs and outside eyes operate in fluid and often undefined spatial territory between writer, deviser, director and dramatist as well as any hyphenated combination thereof - and the doctoral study reflects this fluidity in its style.