Begin class by watching a clip from Spongebob the Musical, watch the performance of Bikini Bottom Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU9yGHBUtpY). Before watching the clip ask the students to take note of the context of the performance. What details are specific to the theatrical performance and what is pulling from the tv show? What has been created that automatically pulls you into the world of the play? After watching the clip, discuss these questions with the class.
Write “Dramaturgy” onto the board.
Ask the students if they are familiar with the term and what they think it is about. Give students time to respond.
If students are unfamiliar with the term, explain it. “Dramaturgy is the research side of a theatrical production. The goal is to create a unified production by ensuring that all choices are kept within the world of the play. Dramaturgs, that’s what you call someone who does dramaturgy, also help audience members learn about the play. If there is a topic or choice that audience members might not be familiar with, it is the job of the dramaturg to help fill that gap with knowledge.”
“As you saw from the video, dramaturgy was used to help adapt and create this tv show into a theatrical broadway production. We see a lot of details that tie us back to the show and choices that have been made so that it can work on stage. Dramaturgy is a tool we use to create unified productions.”
“For the next few weeks we will be exploring what it is that a dramaturg does and why they are important to a production. It’s unfortunate that many people do not learn about dramaturgy, so I hope that being introduced to it here will help you as you work with, or become, a dramaturg on future productions.”
“One of the most important tasks that a dramaturg does is ask questions. These questions come up at every part of the production process. The dramaturg is always thinking of unity within the world of the play. Questions are an essential part of the process. Why do you think questions might be important when trying to create unity within the world of the play?” Give students time to answer. “While reading the play, the dramaturg will ask questions about the story, the characters, the context, and anything else on their minds. Questions give dramaturgs the opportunity to begin a conversation. Conversations with actors, designers, and directors about why they are making the choices that they are.”
One of the most important places that dramaturgs can ask questions in are rehearsals. When a dramaturg sits in on a rehearsal, this is called a rehearsal observation. During the rehearsal the dramaturg takes notes on the things that are happening. These can be good things, things that need fixing, or just general feedback. Dramaturgs sit and take notes and then after the rehearsal will sit down with the director to discuss their observations. Why might this sit down session with the director be helpful to the production?” Allow students to answer. “These observations can be very important to a production as the dramaturg provides an outside perspective for the director and will gain a better understanding of what the audience might be understanding from the show. Let’s take a look at some examples.” Pull up PowerPoint. “Here is a screen shot from a rehearsal observation notebook on a show called Wendy & Peter Pan. Take a second to look through it.”
Give students about a minute to read through the examples. “What are your thoughts on the example? Any questions you have about it?” Go over any questions students have.
“Participating in the rehearsal process is an important part of being a dramaturg.”
“Now, where I would love to start our dramaturgical process to start with a rehearsal observation, that might be a little difficult to do in the middle of the school day where no rehearsals are happening. So instead, we are going to start with our play selection. As a dramaturg, you might not get the luxury of choosing which play you work on, but in this class we do. I want you to take the rest of the class period to find a script that you can work on during this unit. This can be any show you want: a one act, a musical, an opera, anything that might catch your interest. You just need to be able to access the full text and bring it to class everyday. There are plenty of places to find full texts online or you can use one of the scripts we have in the classroom. Once you have selected the text I want you to write a short description as to why you think it will be good play to work on for this unit, what dramaturgical potential do you see in it? Make sure to write at least three points explaining this. After writing this explanation, begin reading your play. We’ve got a lot of work to do these next few weeks and it will all go much smoother if you read your play first.”
Give students the rest of class to pick their play, write their explanation, and begin reading their scripts.