In every production of every show directors, cast, and creative crew interact with one another and with the playwright. Though many productions do not have the privilege of collaborating with a living playwright, all creative teams interact with the words and ideas of another human (or set of idea-happy humans). Rarely do productions have the privilege to work with a living playwright, and fewer still are able to work with a living playwright and a living document.
We’re still a couple weeks out from auditions and in the thick of finalizing design elements so that we can hunt for lumber, flats, paint, and blood packs. In order to facilitate efficient design, procurement, and construction, our fearless playwright turned in a (near to) final draft just last week. To end the story here would be ridiculous.
Rewrites must continue. Scripts are never finished, they are constantly sharpening themselves and clarifying both the playwright and the director’s vision. Playwrights, therefore, ought to be encouraged to participate in production meetings and rehearsals and the creative team should be empowered to talk about the text and grow the text through facilitated feedback.
The conversation has to continue.
“You are a collaborator. If we wanted silence, we have a library of thousands of dead writers…” – Jeremy Wechsler, Theatre Wit (Artistic Director)
How do we frame the conversation for the mutual benefit of all parties involved? Emotions are sure to run high as all parties present their artistic babies and defend their particular concepts and visions for success. Conversations have to be focused and grounded in the infallible truth that all any of us wants is the best version of the production as possible.
I thought I might defer to several other dramaturgical-types for inspiration. How do we encourage equity? How do we facilitate collaboration? How do we welcome a living script into a space? How do we grow with the script? How do we allow the playwright to do their work? How do we hear all voices in the room?
Take a look:
From The Goodman Theatre (Chicago): “[The playwright] was instrumental in guiding us through some of the more sinewy bits of the text…”
From Stephen Metcalfe (San Diego): “[Playwriting is] very interesting… one of the joys, is that the theater is a collaborative experience”
From The Guardian (London): “…theatres are being called upon to be more collaborative in order to ensure their survival…”
From Company One (Boston): “Playwrights are artists and rightly protective of their creations.”
Drafts will continue to bubble up as our fearless playwright learns more about her world and the visions of all the persons invited to build it. What is writing, after all, except rewriting (read as: careful and respectful feedback coalesced into constant rewriting and retooled articulation)?