Why Dramaturgy?

Mike Doyle is a first year Dramaturgy/Criticism major. He is currently working as the Assistant Dramaturg for Faustus by Rupert Goold and Ben Powers.

 Matthew Messina is a first year Dramaturgy/Criticism Major. He is currently working as the assistant dramaturg for The Theatre School at DePaul University’s upcoming production of The Witches.  

 Where are we from and how did it affect our decisions to pursue a career in theatre?

 Mike: I am from Kendallville, Indiana, a small town in Northeastern Indiana. While kids are encouraged to pursue their field of choice, the artistic resources available in my community are not abundant in comparison to other communities around the country. My main exposure to theatre was the mainstream musicals my high school performed interspersed with some straight plays, which were not overwhelmingly popular among my peers. I knew that there was more out there, and I wanted to come to a place that would introduce me to the diverse world of theatre that I only knew existed.

Before I came to The Theatre School at DePaul University, I had no knowledge of Chekhov, Brecht, or Beckett. I had only heard of Arthur Miller. I had briefly touched on a couple of Shakespeare’s plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar. I was taught these works in a literary sense, but never examined them for their dramatic elements. The diversity of work that I have studied here has helped forge my aesthetic thus far, and I know that my aesthetic will continue to flourish as I encounter new works and perspectives in the future.


 Matthew: I am from Avon, Connecticut, which is about twenty minutes outside of the capitol city of Hartford. Since I was a child my mom and grandparents took me to see plays at local theatres and in New York City, considering Connecticut is only a short while away. This early exposure to theatre strongly influenced my love for it. Also, I was lucky enough to attend the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, a magnet arts high school, which exposed me to a vast array of different theatrical forms ranging from the classics to absurdism to contemporary realism. This exposure began the formation of my aesthetic. I would say that coming from a state that values the arts and has sufficient funding for them played a large role in me wanting to pursue a career in the theatrical field. I am not sure if I would have been so passionate about pursuing a career in theatre if I had not had such opportunities as attending the Academy or being exposed to so much theatre as a child.




Why have we specifically chosen dramaturgy as an undergraduate course of study within the broader theatrical realm?


 Matthew: I would say my dream profession is to be a director. Some people will say that in order to be a director the path you must take first is that of an actor, which is true in some ways, but in my opinion, is false. There are several paths that people can take to attain their specific personal goals. I feel that studying dramaturgy will give me the tools that will inevitably assist me in pursuing directing. Dramaturgy, in essence, is all about contextualizing a work of theatre, discovering its historical and social relevance, and researching different aspects of the play itself. These tools all assist a director in discovering their own personal vision for a production. All directors have to look at a play from a dramaturgical standpoint, so honing the craft of dramaturgy seems sensible to me. Regardless of my aspirations of being a director, I find the work of a dramaturg fascinating, so also working as a dramaturg is obviously appealing to me.


Mike: Dramaturgy for me is about helping people understand. I think that in being able to better understand people we can then relate to them and empathize with them, which has a noble quality in my eyes. As a dramaturg I will be able to help the rest of the production team understand the playwright and the context in which the work was written by providing research. Through talkbacks, I will also be able to help audience members understand the directorial vision and certain actor choices. If I choose to pursue dramaturgical work on a graduate level I will most likely work in academia, which would allow me to help students understand themselves and the formulation of their personal aesthetics. Through researching aspects of a production, leading talkbacks, or teaching students I will allow people to understand something that they did not before. In giving people this gift of understanding, I get the joy that comes along with making a difference. It is this joy that has motivated and fed my passion to pursue dramaturgical work.


 Regardless of the differing backgrounds and motivations for pursuing this field, we are united in our love for the theatrical and the art of dramaturgy that informs it.