Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors
CP: Thank you for agreeing to this interview! You’ve caused us to take a little deviation from our “Director” track, but since the work of dramaturges often aligns itself with directors, it’s worth having this chat. So, before diving into your latest project, I’d like to toss you a more general question: your bio highlights several different titles -dramaturg, literary manager, script supervisor, social media specialist – and it strikes me that a common thread seems to be an interest in crafting the ’setting’ of a play, rather than the play itself. To what do you attribute this interest in the larger picture of story-telling?
LR: I have always been very interested in how a story is crafted, not just in the text but the history as well. When I take on a project I delve into research on how the narrative developed, and what external influences contributed to the process of creating this work. All of this research informs my work. I apply this to every part of my life. When interviewing playwrights I always ask about their process. When creating content for social media I ask myself: what is the story I want to tell and where is it coming from? This allows me to widen my scope when approaching any project. I always come to the table with questions that get everyone to think about the text in terms of its socio-political relevance, not just of the time at which we are producing it, but the time/place/culture in which it was originally created.
CP: I see that you’ve worked in film, webisodes and theatre. While all three are vehicles for telling stories, what differences do you see in them, and how does that impact your work in shaping the conversation around the story?
LR: My role in film is very different from my role in theater. For one the official title is Script Supervisor or Continuity Supervisor. I not only track the continuity of objects in a shot, but continuity of storytelling. A series is shot out of sequence and sometimes we have to shoot multiple scenes from different episodes on the same day. For all involved the storytelling can get confusing and my job is to make sure we are getting everything the editor needs to create a clear narrative.
On the podcast I function more as a Literary Manager, reviewing submissions of new plays, creating relationships and conducting interviews with playwrights. The podcast has a feminist aspect, so I focus on how each play will benefit, not only those involved in the production, but also how producing it and putting it out there will benefit the larger community. However, theater has always been my passion and I feel that has a lot to do with the collaborative nature of the work.
CP: Your latest project is as the dramaturg/assistant director for Letter of Marque Theatre Company’s production of Double Falsehood. What drew you to this company?
LR: I knew very little about this company when I signed on for the project but what I remember being the biggest draw for me was their mission. Offering theater at little to no cost to their audiences, reinstating art as a cultural necessity, and using theater to address a social issue; ultimately engaging their community to create social change. I am a staunch believer in the power of theater to change people and to inspire people to make changes in their world.
CP: What kind of things have you, in your role as a dramaturg, brought to the rehearsal process of LoM’s Double Falsehood?
LR: Applying the research to the storytelling. I didn’t just focus on the history of the play (though I did bring a working knowledge about 18th century England) but the history of rape culture as well. When a question came up I was there to answer it in the room and to go further in the conversation as to the cultural significance of how these norms came to be. I also couldn’t take myself out of the emotional content of the play, so I brought my own experiences as a woman in this society into the room as well.
CP: Outside of rehearsal, I understand you’ve been instrumental in creating ancillary projects and events to this production. Can you tell us a little about those, and how they help to create the “setting” for the production?
LR: The events surrounding the performance are all ways in which we can have a continual dialogue with our community. There will be three pre-show panel discussions, each on a Saturday and each focusing on a different topic. The first focuses on how men can be allies for a safer future; exploring gender roles and masculinity to create a culture of consent. The second will discuss the authorship controversy around the text of Double Falsehood (there is still a debate as to whether or not Shakespeare had a hand in it). The third will focus on women’s advocacy; discussing strategies we can employ to make women safer. On three Monday nights we will host a new play reading series to be broadcast on Lady Plays podcast. The plays will all be written by college-aged female playwrights tackling women’s issues as a way to have these young women respond artistically to the themes of the play. We want to create a safe space to have the conversation that will affect as many people as possible.
CP: Since DirectorSpeak is centered around the craft of directing, what would you say to a director that had the opportunity to work with a dramaturge? How can a director get the best out of that relationship?
LR: The key is an open line of communication. We ask a lot of questions. Don’t see this as an attack on you or the work. The best dramaturgs are solution oriented and want to see the director’s vision met to the fullest. Continually inform of any changes, ideas, vision, and/or concerns throughout the process. When a dramaturg is in the room they are keeping the director’s vision in mind, so when they see something that doesn’t fit they bring it to the attention or the artistic team and start a conversation about what best serves the production. We want to see it succeed!
CP: Tell us about a time in a production when working with a director, that you learned something new about the power of the director-dramaturg relationship.
LR: I would have to site this production because I have learned so much about what the Director-Dramaturg relationship should be while working with Andrew Borthwick-Leslie. He is always coming to me with ideas and we have consistent conversations about how to communicate his ideas clearly and effectively to an audience. He welcomed me as part of the ensemble from very early on in the process and has encouraged me to speak up in the rehearsal room; which is not always the case. This allows everyone to see the dramaturg as both an intellectual and a fellow artist.
CP: Any fun or amazing stories you can share with us about Double Falsehood? Something we won’t read about in the press release?
LR: On retreat with the ensemble in the Catskills we stayed up late into the night to do a series of soundpaintings. Soundpainting is multidisciplinary live composing of both sound and body in real time. The production does incorporate some small moments of soundpainting but we mostly used it to discover moments of physical storytelling around the themes of Double Falsehood. It is very improvisational and the motto is always “strong and wrong” so we are very free to not worry about doing something the “right” way. Not only was this fun but also helped us explore the piece outside of the text.
CP: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today and for letting us peek into your world. Best of luck with Double Falsehood!