Dramaturgical Insights at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

So far this week at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, we’ve been plugging away at “Clay Cart” since it goes into tech rehearsals next week. “Midsummer” and “Fences” are going through tech rehearsals this week, so everyone is busy. For those of you who don’t know, a tech rehearsal is where the show is rehearsed with all of the cues of the show. Actors perform the show while scenery, lights, and props run their part of the show. Costumes come later during dress rehearsals. It’s a way of adjusting everyone to the pace and feel of the show.

On Thursday, we had another F.A.I.R. Forum, and this time we met with Lue Douthit, the Director of Literary Management and Dramaturgy. Since the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a language based theatre, they spend a great amount of time researching the script and reading all of the different publications of the script. Since different publishers have different footnotes and possibly different versions of the script (I did not know this, but “Fences” a fairly contemporary play, has 4 different versions), people at the festival read through all the different versions taking notes and compiling all of them. Since “Clay Cart” is 2000 years old with many translations, they read through the translations to find which one would work the best for the festival.

Lue, a very amusing woman with a unique perspective, explained that at the top of the season there are 4 shows and at the end of the season there are 6 shows. The shortest amount of time they have shows run at the festival is 40 performances, which is the average run for most repertory theatres. There are 4 plays of Shakespeare and the festival is starting to produce non-Western classics, which is beginning with “Clay Cart.” Ideally, the festival tries to have Shakespeare produced on the Elizabethan Stage (the outdoor theatre) because they don’t have to worry about royalties. When they produced “Cyrano de Bergerac,” they also had other shows that they hoped would make money so that they could pay the royalties for “Cyrano.”

Lue is very hilarious. At the show intro for “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” the meeting was running over, but instead of hurrying when she talked, Lue said, “If I was smart and you were lucky, we would get out of here sooner.” I like what she had to say about dramaturgy and researching the script and their approaches to deciding which plays to produce. Dramaturgy is basically researching the time period of the play, the historical aspects of the play, the literary meaning behind certain passages, and analyzing the play. I liked how Lue said that instead of blaming the playwright for a bad part in the play, people at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival try to use their skills to make sense of the situation. They try to see if there is a different way to approach this instead of thinking it’s completely wrong. One of the best parts of the meeting is when someone said, “How do you know when you’re done here?” Lue replied, “When I repeat myself. When I’m doing the same thing over again.”

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