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Long Distance Relationships (With Your Artistic Team!)

Study abroad student Emily Anne Gibson details some of the resources she uses to connect with her production team back home.

"We live in the age of the Internet, and staying connected with what's going on in Pittsburgh is really possible."
(© Emily Anne Gibson)
"The internet has always been, and always will be, a magic box." --Marc Andreessen

One of the difficult things about being abroad is that my production that goes up in the spring is already in the works. I'm working as a dramaturg on a senior directing student's thesis show, and it is super important to me that I stay involved in the process while I'm away.

Thankfully, we live in the age of the Internet, and staying connected with what's going on in Pittsburgh is really possible. This article isn't meant to plug corporations, but these are some of the resources that I've been using to connect with the production team back home.

Email is almost too obvious to talk about, but it shouldn't go forgotten. In my experience, the time difference makes phone calls tough; if my director is busy all day and can't talk until 11pm, it's four in the morning here, and I'm not waking up to have a chat. Email kind of bridges the time gap, and since international texting is quite expensive, it's a good way to shoot off a quick thought or response.

Dropbox is one wonder of the Internet-world that would be hard to live without now that I know it exists. This production, like many others I've worked on, has a shared folder with images, research, meeting minutes, renderings…anything you can think of, it's in there. This is great for me, because even though I can't just get images stuck in my pigeonhole at Carnegie Mellon, I can see what everyone is working on and check out management's notes. It's great to be able to have access to the same things as the team at home.

Skype, with which I've always had a kind of love/hate relationship, is unarguably a great resource. It's free, and it allows you to have a presence in the room that things like speaker-phone just can't accomplish. I had the kind of weird experience of Skyping into a creative meeting last week – I'm pretty sure I was like a head on top of a laptop cart. It was definitely worth it, to be "in" the room and able to see everyone and all of the material they were showing. If you are working on a show from abroad, I definitely recommend Skyping in to meetings. It's important to continue to be an active member of the team, and being at meetings shows that you want to do that.

Facebook has actually been quite nice for touching base with the director and assistant director. It's easy to share news articles that relate to our production, to send a quick message, and Facebook Groups can be quite useful for keeping up with what's going on.

Of course, technology has its difficulties, and there is truly nothing like face-to-face meetings, especially when it comes to brainstorming and talking about a script in development. But when you aren't able to have those in-person discussions, it's really important not to just fall off the edge of the Earth. In my experience, in what I've seen, it's quite easy for dramaturgs in particular to get left behind or forgotten. I want to be a dramaturg who is fully a part of the team, and who obviously cares about the production. To me, that means doing what I can to stay on top of all the preparations that are taking place this semester.