The Field Guide to Beats
Documentary Theater Overload

Why Dramaturgy

Emily Anne Gibson discusses the various aspects of theater she's been involved in, and the reasons she chose her conservatory concentration.

By Pittsburgh

Emily as a high school junior (© Joshua Langman)

Going to a conservatory meant making a choice that hadn't been necessary at my high school. I was going to study theater, that was for sure - but now I had to pick one concentration and leave the others more-or-less behind. And although I knew that dramaturgy was ultimately what I wanted to do, it wasn't easy letting go of all of the other aspects of theater that I had come to practice.

I entered my high school as an actress, and I still love performing. Of course, I'm probably a little rusty after two years off the stage, but I like acting, a lot. I like the idea of performing a role on stage, and making the audience suspend its disbelief. I like speaking the words, and the way that we can use our bodies and actions to convey complex emotions to others. Acting is the one class I had every single year as a high schooler, and it's one class that I miss taking here at Carnegie Mellon.

I had a brief directing interest, too. I worked as the assistant director on a production of Caryl Churchill's The Skriker and had the time of my life. It remains one of the most rewarding theatrical experiences of my life. I also directed ten-minute plays for class, and co-directed the William Saroyan play The Beautiful People in my senior year. I liked creating an artistic vision that I then saw replicated on stage. I liked being able to lead a room full of people toward one goal, to build stage pictures, and to watch a show over and over and think of ways to alter it and improve it. I had the great fortune to take one directing class here at Carnegie Mellon, and I regret that my schedule doesn't allow for any more.

I spent a huge portion of my time in high school as a techie, and perhaps this was the hardest choice to make. I was on crew or designing or working as an electrician on nearly every play that went on in my time at high school, and I was a stage manager too. I loved creating visible (and audible) designs, loved painting and climbing ladders and riding in Genies and troubleshooting - I spent so many hours doing all of that I lost count. And I love the organization and authority of the stage manager, the ability (and responsibility) to know everything that's going on. I was quite close to applying as a Production and Theatre Management student at Carnegie Mellon, but ultimately, I settled on dramaturgy.

The reason really came down to my passions. I knew that in addition to studying theater, I wanted to study history and English. I also knew that out of anything I studied in high school, the little section we did on dramaturgy when I was a junior stood out to me as something I could really excel at, something I loved, and something I could see myself doing for a long, long time. But I think it's important for dramaturgs to understand the bigger picture, and I think my background in acting, directing, and tech helps me better understand how a production comes together, and in the end, makes me a better dramaturg.

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