New drama program adds context to theater

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    By Julie Angevine

    The theater department is implementing a new “Dramaturgy Program” to help educate the cast and audience of every theatrical performance at BYU.

    Three women joined forces to pilot this program and they hope to make it a permanent element of BYU theater.

    Theater instructor Megan Sanborn Jones, from Seattle Wash., Shelley Graham, 24, a graduate student from Aiken, S.C. studying history theory and criticism and Amy Jensen, 22, from Provo, double majoring in English and theater studies are behind the program.

    According to Jones, the practice of dramaturgy is a “fairly new discipline.”

    Dramaturgy involves assigning a specific person, a “dramaturg,” to research the play”s time period to become knowledgeable in the clothing, language, humor, dance and customs, Jones said.

    The dramaturg becomes a resource for the cast and director, able to answer specific questions about the play, Jones said.

    A second element of dramaturgy is to educate the audience.

    Jones said the dramaturg writes the program notes and sets up a lobby display to enhance the audience”s understanding of the play.

    “As you go through the lobby on your way to see the show you will be able to learn more about the show you are going to see,” Jones said.

    Dramaturgy focuses on “helping plays reach out to audiences,” Jensen said.

    This weekend the opera “Tartuffe” opens in the de Jong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Arts Center, with Jensen acting as the dramaturg for the show.

    The director, George Nelson, said the opera is modern, written in 1998, and is a “comedic opera.”

    “Tartuffe” is an opportunity for Jones, Jensen and Graham to demonstrate the benefits of dramaturgy to BYU and a stage production.

    In the future Jones hopes to extend the aspect of audience involvement to more than just lobby displays and program notes.

    “We want it to be web-based by next year, so the community can log-on and learn about each performance,” Jones said.

    Graham also has high hopes for the dramaturgy program.

    “We really want to reach out to area high schools and jr. high schools and really get the community involved,” she said.

    Jones, Graham and Jensen believe with proper funding and a continued interest, the dramaturgy program will be successful at BYU.

    “Eventually we hope that every main stage production at BYU will have a dramaturg to do historical and critical research for the director and cast and to educate the university and audience,” Graham said.

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