Running Away With The Circus: Part Three

Don’t know what on earth I’m talking about? Read Parts One and Two

Here’s the set up. In this cirque type show I’m working with there will be defined acts such as aerial silk, the lyra, bullwhip, juggling, hand balancing, fire eating and so on. Now, on top of the acts they want a well defined theme, they want personal stories in the show, they don’t want a traditional story arc as a play would have, but certainly an arc from beginning to end in the mood, the in the exploration of the theme, in the piece as a whole.

Before the group walked into the rehearsal room last week, there was no show. No stories, no theme, no arc. One of the purposes of the workshop was to create a bank of written material from which the show would be formed. A couple of the performers were comfortable with writing, a couple were decidedly not comfortable, and none were regular playwrights.

  • So how do a group of performance artists who’s primary purpose is their physical act, and not writing about their physical act, create material for a show that doesn’t exist yet?
  • How do they create material that is useful, entertaining, touching, and focused?
  • How do you get performance artists to write about themselves so it doesn’t sound like therapy?
  • And they don’t sound like bitter douchebags?
  • And their writing is so open and natural it would make an audience want to know them and love them and take them home, showering them with copious amounts of cash?

On come on, isn’t that what everybody wants? No? Just me?

Enter the dramaturg! Who is also a playwright! Who also teaches playwriting! (Hmmm, I never considered myself a multi-tasker before. Or a superhero. Scrap that, the tights would be too humiliating. I could do the cape though. Hmmmm.)

So, uh Lindsay, how exactly does the dramaturg fit into a creative collaboration? Glad you asked.

My job in the creative process was not to create material, but to facilitate the creation of material. To allow non-writers (and by that I mean people who don’t do it every day) a way to write. And facilitate a manner of writing that wasn’t therapy, or bitter, or douchy.

Not easy. But not hard either. And I’ll tell you how…. in my Tuesday post. Why? Well, again, this is freakin’ long! It’s too long for one sitting. And it’s Saturday, do you really want to read about creative collaborations and dramaturgy on a Saturday. I sure don’t. It’s the weekend! Go outside! Stop staring at your computer!

What? Oh ok, here’s number one to wet your whistle. But that’s it. Then you have to go outside. I’ll know if you didn’t.

The Dramaturg and the Creative Collaboration.

  1. The dramaturg and the Creative Team must be on the same page: Before the workshop began I had two meetings with the Director (Allison Williams, who many of you know as the author of Hamlette, Mmmbeth and Drop Dead, Juliet) and two Associate Directors. In these meetings we clarified the theme, clarified the wants, and clarified what they wanted an audience to get from the show.

The most important aspect was clarifying the theme. This is not a traditional play, so there needs to be something to explore, something to shape. Otherwise it’s just act after act after act. And by clarifying the theme, every time the group sat down to write during the workshop, we could focus the writing toward that theme.

This is when creative collaboration works, when all the writing, all the improv’s, everything is focused toward one goal. It’s easy to wade through material and decide what’s right for a show and what’s not if you have a big shiny theme.

More to come on Tuesday…..

About the author

Lindsay Price