This Thing Called Dramaturgy…

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By: Stephanie Swiatek

When I was in elementary school, a huge grin would spread across my face when an adult asked me one simple question—Stephanie, what do you want to be when you grow up? My instant answer was, “I wanted to be a ballerina.” At the time I was immersed in a magical world of frilly tutus and tiny black tap shoes. I had started taking ballet and tap classes at the age of three and by the time I had my first recital that year, I was dancing my little butt off. At seven-years old, my response was quick, confident, and full of enthusiasm. If only I could have answered this question with such certainty my freshman year of college. I, like many other young people, could not.

I have been on quite the journey since my days of dreaming I might be the principle in a production of Swan Lake. From learning about Isadora Duncan and her place in the modern dance world to Sondheim’s complex yet ever so compelling music, my journey has been filled with art thus far. Next, I wanted to be an actress. Time and time again, I would hear professional actors and my acting teachers say, “If you can see yourself doing anything else in the world, do it. Do not act, do whatever your ‘anything else’ is if you will be happy.” It took me one year in my BFA acting program to realize that I had an “anything else.”

I could envision my life going in different directions, because I have always considered myself a multi-faceted young woman. History, English, religion, psychology, anthropology were all academic subjects that interested me. As an undergraduate student, I felt it was important that I have the freedom to explore my interests. I found the strict structure of my BFA acting program suffocating and I began to search for other options. I looked into the journalism program at what was then my current school, the University of Connecticut, and realized that I could not leave the theatre just yet, if ever.

The Theatre School’s BFA Dramaturgy/Criticism program is all that I wanted and more. I have identified why I am eager to learn about a variety of different subjects. Studying the liberal arts will ultimately help me understand this world that I am immersed in. Not only do I want to understand humanity and my life, but I also want to make every effort to improve it.

Why did I choose to study dramaturgy? I like to ask questions. Actually, I love to ask questions. Questions demand that human beings listen. A query is merely an unfinished thought without an answer. I know my generation has a great deal to say about this world and the human race’s place in it at the current moment. It’s time to listen.

As a dramaturgy student, I am challenged to listen to the text before all else. I must identify key ideas and champion why the ideas are vital for a production. With dramaturgical research, I have found that many of my interests are satisfied. In fact, they are embraced and make my work exciting. I have realized I don’t need to label myself as an actor, a director, or a dramaturg. With an art form that is so diverse, why limit myself?

What do I want to be today? My answer is, “a theatre artist.” And here, at The Theatre School, I am working to further develop my voice as an artist so that in the future, my audience will not feel that they must listen. They will want to.

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