The Dramaturg Never Gets the Girl


by Matthew T. Messina

“Sir? Will your guest be joining you this evening, or will you be dining alone?” Gotthold looked up at the waitress.   He had been immersed in rereading Three Sisters, the show he was currently dramaturging.  He looked at his watch.  She was forty-five minutes late.

Earlier that day, as he was working in the theatre’s literary office, a beautiful, young actress named Harriet  popped her head in.  He struck up a conversation, one thing led to another, and he proposed they grab dinner at seven o’clock that night.  She agreed and left the office with a smile and a wave.  Gotthold spun around in his office chair.  He caught sight of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine on the bookshelf next to him.  Cloud nine…that’s where he had been.  But currently, he was sitting alone at a table for two.

“I’ll just have another ginger ale and wait a little longer,” he replied.  He hoped Harriet  came into the office today to see him.  He thought maybe, just maybe, she had taken an interest in him.  Then, a tragic possibility dawned on him.  Perhaps, she only came into the office for the free coffee he put out everyday.  Gotthold let out a sigh.  What was he doing wrong?  Why wasn’t he desirable?  He was smart, a great listener, sensitive, and had a knack for picking up on the subtleties and finer details of life.

Things were not going so well at work either.  Sure, he enjoyed his job, but he felt as if he wasn’t being used to his full potential.  He felt like a glorified researcher and knew he was more than that.  Didn’t anyone understand?  Dramaturgs are much more than bookworms. The dramaturg’s purpose is to be the guardian of the text, maintain consistency in a production, and ask provocative questions that challenge the ideas of the production and forward the process. The dramaturg is the conscience of the theatre.

Just a few weeks ago in a production meeting he was hit with a wave of dramaturgical passion.  The director of Three Sisters posed the question of cutting a few scenes from the play, and after Gotthold glanced at the scenes he knew he had to speak.  Cutting these scenes would remove some of the most poignant moments of the play. He gave an impassioned explanation as to why the scenes were important and how they would enhance the production.  He had spent so much time with the text up to that point that he knew what was expendable and what was not.  Specifically, the director wanted to make an internal cut to the fourth and final act of the play.  This cutting would remove Tuzenbach’s final line, “I didn’t have any coffee this morning.  Ask them to fix me some, will you?”  This was Gotthold’s favorite moment of the play. In this moment Tuzenbach is walking to his certain death and he is face to face with the one he loves, Irina, for the last time.  Peter Brook would say Chekhov’s dramaturgy explores the invisible and hidden impulses of man.  Chekhov’s plays are full of feelings such as love, endurance, loss, grief, among many others.  Tuzenbach is not asking for coffee in this moment.  In this moment, in lieu of an untamed scream, he is saying all there is to be said, because nothing is left to be said.  The simple line about coffee was both beautiful and tragic all at once, and it brought Gotthold to tears every time he read it.  The director agreed with Gotthold after he gave his two cents, and thanked him.  That was a good day.

Gotthold felt like those days were few and far between.  He knew theatre artists were coming around to the idea of a dramaturg, but he wished they would hurry up.  Ultimately, all he wants to do is help.  The only problem being…no one seemed to want his help.  Or his affection, apparently.  Where was Harriet?  And what was the appropriate amount of time to wait for a date before accepting that one had been ‘stood up’?  If Harriet just looked at his skills as a dramaturg she could see he was the perfect guy for her.  He could take care of a text, and he could take care of her.  He always had innovative ideas to offer to productions, so he could think up ideas for crazy, fantastic dates!  He was never rash when it came to giving his opinions to the production team, he made sure to take time to look at all sides of a problem before speaking about it.  That being said, he would be a rational significant other who took time to look at all sides of an issue before speaking about it.  That’s why he was so great at giving advice.

He glanced down at Three Sisters and shut the book.  He knew what his Moscow was—the arms of another.  The sisters were not getting what they wanted and neither was he.  Gotthold let out a sigh and sipped his ginger ale.  One day he would show someone he was a great guy with so much to offer, but for now he had to wait.

He thought back to when we was leaving the theatre earlier.  He had heard his name and whispers coming from down the hall as he headed out the door.  Maybe, the snide remarks were true.  Maybe, Harriet was too pretty for him.  Maybe, he was crazy to ask her on a date, but it was worth a shot.  Gotthold paid his bill and left the restaurant.  Maybe, it was true…the dramaturg never gets the girl.


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