New Directions in Dramaturgy

Humpback Whale Diving Sooty Shearwater birds and Humpback Whales Sooty Shearwater birds, numbering in perhaps the 100,000’s, fly south in flocks measuring miles in length, and land in the water to feed, along the Central California coast at Morro Bay, CA, Sunday, 06 July 2014. In a surreal experience, which captivated all onboard, the sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) were observed feeding on what must have been massive bait balls. Also feeding on the bait at the same time were numerous Humpback Whales, located just outside Morro Rock, and the Morro Bay, CA harbor entrance. The sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus) is a medium-large shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. says “They are spectacular long-distance migrants, following a circular route, traveling north up the western side of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at the end of the nesting season in March–May, reaching subarctic waters in June–July where they cross from west to east, then returning south down the eastern side of the oceans in September–October, reaching to the breeding colonies in November. The Humpback Whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, were lunge feeding, diving, feeding, as seen from Captain Kevin Winfield’s Subsea Tours Dos Osos boat, off Morro Rock. Photo © 2014 “Mike” Michael L. Baird, mike {at] mikebaird d o t com,, Canon 5D Mark III, with Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, with no Circular Polarizer, handheld, IS, RAW. See EXIF for detailed settings. GPS geotags are realtime from on-camera Canon GP-E2 GPS Receiver. You are free to use this photo/video, but please attribute and link back to this image page so that others may enjoy the original full resolution version, and view other images in the series. Please leave a comment linking to your work. See access, attribution, and commenting recommendations at - Please a

New Directions in Dramaturgy

by Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly
Dramaturgy foregrounds a big, open question: why perform or create this play at this time, for this audience? To address this question, dramaturgs have historically seen themselves as curators of information and production history that can inform, or expand, a director’s vision. So (to take a historical example), in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, Madame Arcati rides a bicycle. What kind of bicycle would Coward have had in mind? How many women rode bicycles then? What did they look like? What social messaging did a woman send when she rode a bicycle in 1941, in the middle of World War Two? Would you cycle in a skirt or in trousers? These are all questions by which we can help shape a production’s sense of “who” a character is: but they remain in the arena of call-and-response. (The director calls for information, we respond.)
My new blog series is called New Directions in Dramaturgy. It asks: what can constitute a “dramaturgical” act or thought? How might dramaturgy deepen, broaden, shift, the responses and expectations that audiences bring to theater and to life?  Dramaturgy is a vein, throbbing with life and possibility, that can invigorate information that may on the face of it seem inert or benign: what is on a driver’s license (our age, our gender); how our bodies act in space, interacting with other bodies and objects; how we are socially defined by weight, height, disability, criminal record. Dramaturgical thinking can prompt us to give new life and shape to others’ expectations, and our own.
Special shout-out to Berkeley Theater Explorations, a group that has helped me to think more widely and deeply about the places dramaturgy comes from and where it can go.

New Directions in Dramaturgy archive:

The Circle of Trust by Curt L. Tofteland
On Being Seen by Amy Kossow
Walls of Flame by Philippa Kelly
Redefining Culture by Philippa Kane

We’re looking for submissions that draw on dramaturgy to explore relationships, histories and expectations in new and revelatory ways. If you’d like to be considered for an upcoming article in New Directions, please send submissions to Submissions will be anonymously reviewed by outside assessors, and those that are chosen will receive a $50 commissioning fee.


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