Every single dramaturgy job is different, without exception: of course you're dealing with a different script and playwright each time, but more than that, you're approaching your work with a different production crew, in a different time, for a different audience. There are a lot of dramaturgy manuals available that tell you the way it 'should' be done, but few take into account the fact that each production needs different things. I have worked with Jennifer Roberts-Smith before, of course, on our 2013 collaboration on R3, and have good working relationships with a lot of the production team members and students who were here then, but this does not mean approaching Henry the Sixth is taking on the same work. This production, while definitely an adaptation, is an entirely different beast from the free evisceration that we gave R3: at times, we were downright gleeful with our manhandling of that script to fit to Jennifer's vision of the production. This time, the script takes a backseat to staging, so although it has been cut, it's not a familiar enough script that audiences will miss key speeches (at least until we get to the conference in Hamilton!). For this production, research has been paramount in my role, based on the fact that so much historical detail whizzes by that if we don't have a good basis for what we're saying, it's easy for us (and by extension the audience) to get lost. This Hub has been a good way of compiling material without worrying about getting print-outs prepared for the company, or relying on maintaining a binder. Being able to consult in rehearsal by Skype has been a terrific boon for me as well. Some dramaturgs like to be in rehearsal all the time, to get their hands dirty and really get a sense of what is happening day-to-day - I have worked that way in the past and I am sure I will do the same in the future when a production calls for such engagement. On this, the actual on-stage product is going to be a surprise for me on the first stumble-through day: at that point, I can watch the piece as a completely fresh-eyed audience member, and offer suggestions based on what I see. I'm looking forward to that point!
If anyone has any questions about dramaturgy or clarification on anything at all to do with the production, please get in touch here.
The rehearsal process is interesting because a lot of elements that we will be implementing are being discovered during rehearsals. It's a lot less of a composed design compared to what we normally see in our current productions. It's close to the process that they would have in Shakespeare's time and the comparison is quite apparent. Being the only member of the stage management team, it is imperative that I get all of the information as I can through our table work, fight choreography, blocking, and our meetings. It's amazing to see how Jennifer Roberts-Smith dissects the text and brings out such vast ideas and concepts and as we progress: this extraction process is developing through the actors as well. It's a joy to see the knowledge, creativity and development unravel. Daniel Levinson and Paul Hopkins are amazing resources for this production. Daniel's vast fight knowledge is highly useful in this process and the actors are getting a lot from his skills. Any actors who have taken his Drama 363: Stage Combat course in the Winter term are stepping up to help others out when they are uncertain. The use of shields, axes, and swords in combat provide new learning approaches for everyone. This process is a learning experience and Daniel's contributions give everyone an amazing opportunity for fighting experience. Paul Hopkins' paraphrasing, iambic pentameter, and rhythm work gives all actors another technique to use for their character development. The greatest aspect of a university degree in acting is that it provides different methods of approach to character development, text analysis, and performance. Paul's work is one of many ways to approach the text and is beneficial to finding the meaning within Shakespeare's work.
As a stage manager, one of the pleasures is seeing this development, and my work is to provide resources needed for a spectacular performance. It is a lot of information to acquire in a short period of time. As we continue the table work, and then blocking, we will see even more what our show requires.
Toby asked me to write up a blog post for what we have been doing for Henry VI in preparation of building the fights. I had an interesting opportunity of having a mixed group of performers. A large group of the class had previous training with me and the majority were new to stage combat. Even the previously trained would be working with new weapons that would be eclectic and demanding. We began by reviewing some good foundational movement and technique: how to fall both forwards and back, universal parries, medieval sword guards, sharing movement and energy with our partners, and trying out different ways to attack and defend unarmed while moving in a slow steady pace. The other important work we focused on was why our characters need to be violent at that moment in the play. How to make the violence specific and immediate. The work will be helpful now that we are beginning building the fights. We will see what we covered sticks and what will need to be further explained to allow the performer to make the most out of the techniques.