Pittsburgh by Gab Cody
It was my first time. OK. There was that time with my husband, but he isn’t trained for it, so does it count? This year I worked with a dramaturg, on my latest work: Inside Passage at Quantum Theatre in Pittsburgh. Did it hurt? Not really. She was firm, but also gentle. Most importantly, she listened to me. She heard my concerns, and my plan for the process. I’ve always been a feedback junkie. Hitherto, I’ve solicited that feedback from friends, colleagues, actors in my shows, as well as the usual suspects: directors, producers, designers, ushers. Actually, it’s Stephen Daldry who taught me, by example, to solicit and welcome as many opinions as possible. I was David Hare’s assistant during his run of Via Dolorosa on Broadway. Stephen Daldry was directing. One day Sir David was running through a rehearsal of the show. Mr. Daldry walked through the seats of the theater, changing his vantage point as directors do. He made his way to the back of the theater. There, he discovered an usher avidly watching the process. He greeted the usher. The usher suggested he had an idea about a moment Sir David and Mr. Daldry discussed earlier. Mr. Daldry listened, nodding, and then, a moment later, delivered the note to Sir David. And the moment worked. Why had it taken me so long to work with a dramaturg when it seems they are everywhere these days?
I’m very protective of my early writing process. I need to get the play out before we start choosing binkies, middle names and preschools. Kristi Good, who works within the dramaturgy department at Carnegie Mellon University acted as, what I like to call, my playwright doula. She wasn’t a script doctor. She didn’t nurse my wounds. She did offer encouragement, an objective view and insightful ideas at critical junctures. She did buoy our research. At one point she helped me see how a scene that I had cut might return and serve an important purpose in a different section of the work. She helped birth the play. As with any labor, these things aren’t always pretty. I’m grateful that she was in the room. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the Godmother to the piece: playwright (and my predecessor as DG Regional Rep) Tammy Ryan.
Tammy attended our final runs of the show and helped me further shape the piece. And Karla Boos, our steadfast producer and Artistic Director of Quantum Theatre, seasoned midwife, made it all possible. There are so many women in my life who helped bring this new play into existence. Making something new and showing it to the world is a challenging creative act. It takes a village. My first experience with a trained dramaturg was very effective. Maybe I’ll do it again. You know what they always say about The Second Time? Yeah, me neither. But I’m sure a dramaturg knows.