DRAMA 101, INTRODUCTION TO THEATRE, MODULE 1 – Dramaturg


I read an, a huge number of scripts as
part of my job. I open a script, really hoping to find a
new voice. Hi, I’m Anne Cattaneo, I’m the dramaturg
at Lincoln Center Theater. [MUSIC] The closest definition of a
dramaturg is an editor in a publishing house, or specifically an acquisitions
editor in a publishing house. Our primary responsibility, of course, is
to read plays that are submitted to the theater, like an editor would read plays
and make recommendations based on that. We also work on productions that, new
plays, we work, an editor would work with a writer on suggesting thoughts and
rewrites, changes, cuts, when we work on classical plays we do, you know, prepare
a text, we may make changes or cuts. It’s a job that, that requires a
knowledge of theater history, a knowledge of languages, a knowledge of literature
and it also requires a great working knowledge of theater, of actors, of
directing, how plays are put together and plays are built.
I come from a family of scientists, my father was a scientist, my mother studied
chemistry, my brother went to MIT. And I was actually a physics major in
college. And I got interested in theater just
because I loved the theater that I was seeing at that time.
I was living in the Bay Area and I was fortunate enough to make some connections
and get involved with the American Conservatory Theater during it’s glory
days under Bill Ball. And I worked as the assistant to Edward
Hastings, who was the associate artistic director and that was really a connection
and a relationship that changed my life. He was the one who said to me you should
go to graduate school in theater. He wrote me a letter and I was accepted
at the Yale School of Drama in criticism. And then I was fortunate enough to
actually get a job in the theater, and that was the literary manager of the
Phoenix. And I came into my first day of work to
the second day of rehearsal to Uncommon Women and Others by Wendy Wasserstein.
Who turned to me and said, thank god you are here and no one has ever had a
happier introduction to their professional life than I have, courtesy
of Wendy and I have worked at the Phoenix, at the acting company at second
stage. I came here and I’ve been called the
dormitory literary manager. So as far as my experience goes literary
managers and the dormitory are the same job.
I’ve always liked the word dramaturgue because nobody knew what it meant.
For me it also implies co-editing as I do with John [UNKNOWN] the Lincoln City
Theater Review, which is a literary review that we produce three times a year
that is a sort of added conversation to the plays we present with our audiences.
I also run the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, which is a large scale project that
the theater does for emerging stage directors.
When needed I do sometimes small, sometimes very massive research for
actors in productions if that’s called for.
So it’s a kind of job that can be whatever you make it to be depending on
the needs of your theater and your own interests.
I guess we had an extraordinary time here on The Coast of Utopia, hiding behind my
door. I’ve capped off a long four page sheet of
paper that I put together to really understand all the chronological
specifics of that very complex play. Everything in that production with very
few exceptions is true. I had the kind of wonderful task of
seeing which scene belonged when. So everything that was needed by the, by
the company is on this, rather long sheet.
That was an exciting thing to, to find that kind of research, because that
company was so in love with the play. They knew everything, so they didn’t have
to take rehearsal time asking questions, like when did [UNKNOWN] meets [UNKNOWN] .
They knew that, they could tell him not only when they knew it, but how, and you
know was all done. When you’re a dramaturg you, you work
with the director, Mark Lamos, our director, who’s working right now on the
Grand Manor. The director’s in charge of the
interpretation, the director’s in charge of the room.
You’re never doing anything the director doesn’t know about.
What I did for this was to use the great resources upstairs of the Lincoln Center
Library for the Performing Arts. They actually have you know,
correspondence between Katherine Cornell and her husband, Guthrie McClintock.
Boyd Gaines plays Guthrie McClintock and Kate Burton plays Katherine Cornell.
So, we arranged for the company to go upstairs and see this material.
The play is by, of course, by Pete Garney.
And he did meet Katharine Cornell when he was a young man.
And he sets out very charmingly at the beginning of the play the actual meeting.
It’s the standard lovely stage door encounter, then the rest of the play is
his imagined encounter. He’s invited backstage and they have a
whole, you know, scene long play together.
And we’re now at the beginning of a tech rehearsal, which is traditionally the
time that the dramaturg goes away or sits at the back of the house, and all of
these people who are passing behind us have very important things to ask for and
my job is done. Basically, each production is totally
different and that’s one of the great things about being a dramaturg.
if you, if you look around my office you’ll see piles of books, books about
spirit rituals that I worked on when we did Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
Along with books about orgasm, which I used for In the Next Room by Sarah Ruhl.
Every 6 months it’s something radically different, this is the ideal job for
people who love literature, who speak languages, who understand and love
actors. When I go onto a stage and I see a ghost
light, I am a happy person and that is never ceased.
It’s a funny combination of characteristics and, and having people
recognize me on the street is not something that I enjoy.
if I did, I wouldn’t be happy in the job. [MUSIC][MUSIC][MUSIC]

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