A Dramata-What?

by Doriane Feinstein on February 23, 2018

Freshman year of college, I couldn’t tell you what a dramaturg was. After my first play, where we had a dramaturg as part of the production, I still couldn’t have told you what a dramaturg did. But now, since I have successfully been a dramaturg for a mainstage show at Arcadia, I can tell you.

In an over-condensed nutshell, a dramaturg provides the cast and audience with supplemental information they may need to understand the play. With the script as a guide, the dramaturg researches the prominent content and finds ways to communicate that information to those involved with the production. Sometimes this requires creating packets for the cast or lobby displays. Dramaturgs working on new plays that are still in development often develop an outside perspective to ask critical questions about the piece or notice little holes that have slipped through. What makes the position tricky is that there is no one way to be a dramaturg— each production is different.

This [production] inspired me to dedicate part of my senior thesis to learning about being a female producer in a male-dominated industry.

- Dori Feinstein

Working on Arcadia’s production of Sensitive Guys was thrilling. First of all, the show was written by MJ Kaufman and had been developed at the new-play development company, PlayPenn, where I interned last summer. The show also made its world premiere at Philly’s InterAct theatre while we were beginning the rehearsal process at Arcadia. This brought forth a whole new world of exploration as we began to receive script changes from the ongoing revisions; we also had the opportunity to see InterAct’s performance and learn about their cast’s process and experience.

I also had the privilege of working with the incredible director, Rebecca Wright, who is a prominent director and teaching artist in Philadelphia. The rehearsal room was almost entirely comprised of women and gender non-conforming individuals working on this piece. Although our assistant stage manager was a cis-man, the majority of our process lived in a world where we could all share and connect to the hardships the female characters in Sensitive Guys faced on a college campus. Working in a room that had practically no cis-male presence in our artistic discoveries made me evaluate my role as a woman in the theatre.

I grew curious from this experience and tried to research more female playwrights and directors, but was stunned to find such a small presence. I know these artists are out there— it’s just astonishing to see how few opportunities they are given to have their work shown. This project actually inspired me to dedicate part of my senior thesis to learning about being a female producer in a male-dominated industry. The play I will be producing and acting in is I and You, written by Lauren Gunderson. My hope is for this project to shine a bright light on the struggles a woman faces in the theatrical field, specifically as a producer.

Being a dramaturg for Sensitive Guys threw me into a world full of feminism, painful truths of the patriarchy, and empowerment. I am overjoyed with all I have learned and am eager to take these skills with me through my journey to senior thesis.