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Discussion results in Dramaturg Group

Arts Policy Report

Writers Group , National Theatre of Wales , December-19-14
Arts Policy Report by Writers Group In highly edited form. The full exchanges can be read at the National Theatre of Wales site, Writers Group.

Phillip Morris gets into the nature of the relationship February 19:

"...writers will require some assurances that the dramaturg(e)won't simply act as yet another gate-keeper in the development process, someone that they feel they have to 'please'. It should feel like the process is an opportunity to enrich a text that is already, or very nearly working, with even greater potential. This help should be provided by someone who understands the courage it requires to open up your heart and veins onto a blank page for public scrutiny, but that can be anyone with a creative background not only playwrights. A good playwright might not be to facilitate constructive feedback from a workshop session or script reading."

Matt Ball enlarged the discussion February 19:

"The first time anyone tried to explain to me what a dramaturg was they described it as "the guardian of the idea"...For me it's someone whose focus is on the needs of the piece, and acts as interlocutor for the audience...The times I've found them most useful is when they ask the difficult questions, or throw something into the mix that you hadn't thought about. Whether their background is as a writer, director, designer, producer or academic shouldn't matter, as they're not there to write or direct the piece but to help make it the best it can be."

Simon Coates added more from experience February 20:

"My experience of a Dramaturg has always been about someone who is able to come into a process and literally talk back what they see, felt, were reminded of; what they can read from the work. In doing so contributing, interrogating and questioning the dramatic and narrative structures of the work. This always made sense to me coming from a background where the words often came second, third or sometimes never in the process but where we were still very much concerned with telling stories. For me, that's where a dramaturg is worth their weight in gold."

Tim Price hit it on the centre February 20:

"Wales is faced with being a nation without a single person in the subsidised theatre sector, paid to read plays, and meet playwrights...There is too little strategic oversight of new writing in Wales. And a body dedicated to new writing, just as the poets and novelists have Literature Wales, could defend playwrights rights, advocate for new Welsh work at home and abroad, and provide the pastoral care that playwrights need to flourish."

National Theatre Wales moves towards a summation February 22:

"At the moment if feels like it would be worth trying out some kind of 'dramaturgs group' consisting mainly but not solely of writers, to advise NTW, think about what Welsh drama and dramaturgy can be, and provide support and feedback to writers on seed commissions or commissions."

Three weeks later a proposal was floated March 11

"NTW recruits a group of 6 Dramaturgs to be part of our writer development work over the next year...to support dramaturgy on NTW seed commissions or commissions. This could involve in-depth feedback on 1 script or lighter touch input on two or three...There would be an open application process with a panel of me, another NTW bod, and two writers who aren't applying. The 6 Dramaturgs chosen would include 4 writers and 2 theatre artists with different backgrounds - e.g. director, designer, live artist, etc."

The discussion shifted in the direction of aesthetics. Kaite O'Reilly March 12:

"The point is story structure, order, and pattern is already inherently in us. It's how the brain works and what we may already be well experienced in. We only have to interact with a small child to understand how sophisticated an understanding of story is even in very tiny humans."

National Theatre Wales rounded off the discussion July 21:

"Today we're announcing the members of the first Dramaturgs Group - chosen from over 30 applicants by a panel of Kaite O'Reilly, Roger Williams, Lisa Maguire and myself. It was a very difficult decision, and we could easily have filled the group three times over, but we've tried to come up with a balanced and inspiring selection that will push the debate, and the level of support for writers, forward. And the names and profile links are: Janys Chambers, Richard Hurford, Mathilde Lopez, Ace McCarron, Louise Osborn and Gary Owen. Our first meeting will be in September."

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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