What is a Dramaturg?
If I’m working with the title dramaturg it’s usually because I’ve been asked to be the ‘outside eye’ on the work of a writer or company – I’ll analyse intentions, structure and form, shaping a process to help give artists some objective distance on their material.
As a dramaturg I want to learn the language of a play, and help the makers or writers speak it more clearly to an audience. I may come in for one session or draft, or a series of sessions and drafts over a longer period – even the whole process – whatever’s needed for the project in question.
You can click here to read a detailed account of my work as dramaturg with writer-performer Hannah Silva, when we collaborated on her play The Disappearance of Sadie Jones. It’s a good example of how I can work with both writers and companies.
For something more succinct though, here’s a list of some things I can offer:
- One-to-one feedback, support and mentoring for individual playwrights
- One-off script reports or script meetings
- Facilitation of research and development processes with writers or companies
- Guiding writing and the use of text in devised work
- Exploring structure, form and intention in devised work
- Project consultation: what do you want to do, how can you best achieve it, and what might that process look like?
When Do I Need a Dramaturg?
If what’s described above sounds like it might be helpful to you, feel free to get in touch and we can discuss it. Not every project needs a dramaturg of course – but let’s find out if you’re not sure.
What Have Other People Said?
‘David is my ‘go to’ guy whenever I need feedback on a play. He delivers advice in a sensitive and constructive manner, and demonstrates an in-depth understanding of both the work I submit to him and the craft of writing. I have been working with David for several years, and he is currently mentoring me on several projects.’
‘Working with David totally re-invigorated our company’s practice. So often new writing sits on one side of the theatre ecology and devised work perches on the other, like awkward teenagers at a disco. Fine Chisel’s work increasingly tries to push those groups together and see whether they can dance; David helped us learn the steps. In a few short days, he guided us through a number of exercises – drawn from his own experience as a playwright – to help us raise the stakes of our dramatic writing. Yet he was equally happy to sit, savour, examine and interrogate our music, puppetry or movement and consider how these crafts could come together to create a vivid world for our audience. This fluidity as a dramaturg is invaluable and fairly unique. The success of Dumbstruck (Fringe First and MTN Award for Innovation) owes him a lot.’
Tom Spencer, Fine Chisel
‘When David came to me with his ideas for a writers’ forum, he set in motion a whole array of support and opportunities for playwrights which became one of the most effective, nurturing and imaginative programmes of writer development in the land. Limited by financial resources but not by desire or determination, David curated and facilitated the writer development programme at the Ustinov in a way which reflected his nature – balanced, open-minded and open-hearted, full of encouragement and passionate about not only the craft but also – and I think most of all – the people. I’ve been really inspired by David – his work with the group also instigated in me a desire to make something similar in Hull, giving the writers of my region the same sense of self-worth, of curiosity, inquisitiveness and passion to develop themselves and their craft.’
Andrew Smaje, former Chief Executive (Hull Truck) and Associate Director (Theatre Royal Bath)
‘In 2005, David Lane acted as dramaturg on one of my first plays, The Cow Play. Over two weeks, we worked with three actors to hone the script and produce two informal performances for an audience. David worked tirelessly throughout, creating exercises that informed the writing process and, ultimately, the performance. His analytical understanding of structure and story were invaluable, as was his appreciation of fun, humour, games and playfulness, as tools to tease out the underlying conflict and drama in the work. He structured the process around my own desires and inclinations, and those of the actors – honing a draft I was incredibly proud of, and workshop performances that (ultimately) launched my career! David’s natural warmth and conviviality made him effortless and great fun to work with throughout. It remains to this day one of the most enjoyable and rewarding processes of my career.’
‘We devise our work, build text through improvisation, and begin without any set idea of structure, so bringing David on board as a Dramaturg at such an early stage of R&D felt like a bit of a risk at the time. What on earth would he make of our chaos? He wasn’t going to try and make us write a proper play was he? Would he even get us? So it was such a joy to have any anxiety completely confounded by such a supportive, generous and intelligent and patience presence in the room. It worked because we felt from the beginning that David was open to learning as much from us as we were getting from him; the process and the work benefited hugely from such a relationship.’
Simon Day, The Plasticine Men
‘My new project’s an ocean away from my usual stuff in every sense. I trust David’s skills, sharp judgement and really enjoy working with him. Where David spots things I miss – plot, character, structure and more – I’m like a tree-clambering kid being shown the possible branches above, along, over there. I make the choices, do the reaching, change my mind – I’m the one in the tree. I’m not entirely sure whether he’s on the ground or on a cloud, but he’s got a great view. This work is far, far richer now; going where I always wanted it to. That would not have happened without David.’
‘In developing original material, our pieces have sometimes become oblique, ostracising the audience. At other times, we’ve ended up with something too linear, killing off the strange spark that brought the work to life in the first place. David visited rehearsals at such a delicate stage – close to opening, near the end of a development process when we were all so attached to the material – it would have been easy to derail or overwhelm us. But he keyed into where we were at and what we needed. He gave us such an objective ‘audiencing’, taking us on their journey, reflecting our piece back to us. It was really remarkable and, though he says, ‘I’m not here to fix your play’, I know his suggestions helped make it work.’
Georgina Sowerby, Dirty Market
How Much Does it Cost?
Hourly Rate: £30.00
Half-Day Rate: £150.00
Day Rate: £250.00
Travel: Charged if travel time over 60mins
If you want to negotiate a rate or aren’t sure for how long you might need these services, just drop me a line and we can talk through it.