Of the many theatre projects I’m working on this summer (while simultaneously looking for new work… anybody hiring?), one of them is a new project called Slash Artists Collective or SLAC. A friend of mine, Carolynne Wilcox, invited me to join a new group being created by artists who are eager to learn more about other aspects of theatre by those who wish to share their knowledge. It is truly a collective, really an ensemble, because we have been switching off who leads the group every week.
But what is a slash artist? A slash artist is anyone who doesn’t identify as one type of artist. When people ask you what you do, you don’t just say, “I’m a props designer,” or “I’m a producer.” You say, “I direct, I write plays, and I design lights,” or you say, “I’m an actor, but I also stage manage and I’m directing a children’s play I wrote.” That’s a slash artist. Not defined by a single qualifier, everyone in this group has so much to teach.
There is some overlap. There are several writers, many actors, and already we are discovering the overlap between dance choreography, Viewpoints technique, and physical scores for actors. It’s an exciting discovery process.
My contribution was focused on writing and dramaturgy. I also had to teach the first workshop, so I did not want to do something so overly complicated that I overwhelmed everyone on the first day. And, although I am a dramaturg, I feel like I am still learning and not an authority on anything at this time. I can explain what I do as a dramaturg, but it’s not consistent. Instead, I wanted to lead a conversation, and a writing workshop. I led everyone through different writing exercises, not restricting them to scenes, and afterward I was able to talk them through text analysis. I used David Ball’s book Backwards and Forwards. Ball walks the reader through new ways of looking at plays: from the end to the beginning. If you can find the “trigger” and “heap” for every action in the play, then you can truly understand a play.
I also included some information from some great dramaturgy resources I own, The Shakespearean Dramaturg and Dramaturgy in American Theater: A Sourcebook. The former had a great chapter that described (in several pages) the job of a dramaturg: “textual specialist,” “production historian,” “a public face for the show” and others. In the sourcebook, I found a lovely article called “The Dramaturg as Androgyne” which detailed the duality of mind that is necessary to be an effective dramaturg.
Leading the first workshop was a learning experience to be sure. I became familiar with my abilities and limits. At the second workshop, I also became familiar with my abilities and limits because I did some acting! The leaders of the second half of the workshop slowly led us through working with text from the outside in. I read a short bit from Pericles and found myself exploring different ways of presenting the text. By the end of the workshop, I had memorized the lines and acted them in two distinct fashions. It was empowering and exciting.
I can’t wait to do the other workshops. We have four more, where we’ll be exploring physical scores, writing artist statements, and other activities. I’ll be sure to keep you updated!