Where to Begin?

Brittany Jean Squier (Editor) is a BFA 3 Dramaturgy/Criticism Major. Her previous work includes Assistant Dramaturg on 1001 by Jason Grote, as well as Dramaturg on After the End by Dennis Kelly, Crave by Sarah Kane, Language of Angels by Naomi Iizuka, Cabaret by Frank Masteroff, and the upcoming Pinkalicious by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann.

This question has challenged artists for centuries. Each new generation has attempted to pinpoint the elusive answer. Directors Frank Hauser and Russel Reich state in Notes on Directing, that the first step is to “read the play.” Suzan-Lori Parks tells us in her essay “The Elements of Style,” “right from the jump, ask yourself: ‘Why does this thing I’m writing have to be a play?’”

There are infinite amounts of ways to begin an artistic endeavor. Especially for a profession as difficult to define as dramaturgy, the beginning seems to be a mystery. Many dramaturgs believe that the production determines the process; each show is completely different. Others have defined processes and rituals they follow to ensure they are satisfied with the work.

While the amorphous quality of the starting point is daunting, it is also a moment of artistic creativity: the world is at our fingertips. We have the glorious task of deciding how exactly to paint the canvas, fill the page with words, form the clay, or strum the strings. Twyla Tharp says in The Creative Habit, that “to some people, this empty room symbolizes something profound, mysterious and terrifying: the task of starting with nothing and working your way toward creating something whole and beautiful and satisfying…filling this empty space constitutes my identity.”

So, in the spirit of new beginnings, this is the official first post of The Theatre School at DePaul University’s Dramaturgy / Criticism Program’s blog—The Grappler. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “grapple” as “to take hold of (a person or thing) with the hands; to seize; to grip firmly; hence, to come to close quarters with”. As dramaturgs, our identity is constituted by how we decide to come into close quarters with literature, plays, scholarly articles, books, maps, pictures–the list goes on and on. The Grappler is focused on discussing our current ideas, and presenting them to serve as documentation of our work. We are college students who currently attend The Theatre School at DePaul University and serve as the dramaturgs during the season. We hope to use this blog to share our writings, actor packets, ideas, videos, pictures, and stories.

Our first edition is delving into this idea of beginnings—where to start and what to do. Alexis Jade Links discusses her experience of beginning her post-show discussion internship at The Steppenwolf Theatre. Francesco Salvatore tells us how he chose the dramaturgy/criticism program at The Theatre School at DePaul University and what his first quarter has been like. Josh Jaeger explains what it’s like to “begin anew”, registering in Dramaturgy I his senior year. From our dramaturgs who are working on current productions, Rob, Dani, Nicole and Jacob, are discussions of their individual ways in to the diverse works, as well as the “big questions” they found. We hope these contributions push you to grapple with these ideas as well.

Thank you for reading,

Brittany Jean Squier

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