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Be yourself; everyone else is already taken

Dramaturgy student Emily Anne Gibson discusses what she loves about theater. logo

Emily Anne Gibson, TMU contributor and sophomore at Carnegie Mellon

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." -- Oscar Wilde

One Wednesday night last September I sat at a desk in a large glass display box diligently typing up a copy of the Nuremburg Laws on the Hermes typewriter I got from my high school's production of You Can't Take It With You. I was acting as the lead dramaturg on Brecht's The Private Life of the Master Race and was hard at work on my first lobby display.

Two of my best friends, also dramaturgs, were creating their own displays outside of my box's glass walls. We shouted words of encouragement and advice and frustration to each other as we worked late into the night. Bits of poster board, huge rolls of paper, and a couple of empty Chinese take-away boxes littered the lobby floor. When my display -- a 1930s Nazi office, complete with typed documents, propaganda posters, and an enormous map of Germany that took an hour to print properly -- was nearly finished, I stepped out of my box to admire my handiwork; I felt really, truly proud.

After about ten hours of work and only one breakdown, we called it quits somewhere between three and four in the morning. Those hours were stressful, tedious, and trying -- but looking back, that night was one of my favorite theater experiences of 2011. I relish demanding experiences; my schedule is packed, from Quidditch practice to marching band to producing a night-time talk show at the Waffle Shop. It's never been about getting credit or filling a resume -- I just don't want to miss out on anything!

I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where I started my theater training. At school, I went through a completely unexpected theatrical journey: I entered my freshman year with dreams of becoming an actress, dabbled in directing as a sophomore, tripped into the life of a designer and techie junior year, and emerged from senior year on the road to becoming a dramaturg.

I came to Carnegie Mellon University because it offered an undergraduate dramaturgy program, and though I study history and English as well, my heart is firmly in theater. There's no doubt in my mind that it's the world I want to work in. Why? It's difficult to pinpoint. Perhaps because I love sharing stories. I see theater as a beautiful, communal art form that still holds power in today's world if we know how to use it. My hope is to go out into the world as a dramaturg and perhaps eventually become an artistic director.

I'm really excited about writing for TheaterMania University this semester. I'll be covering a wide range of topics, but all of the articles will be inspired by experiences I've had during my time at Carnegie Mellon. If I've learned anything through my six+ years in theater, it's that there is nothing as useful as learning on the job. From overcoming financial obstacles to figuring out exactly what a dramaturg is supposed to be, the greatest lessons learned have a story. I'd like to share them with you, because I believe the best way for us to communicate and share ideas is through stories -- after all, isn't that why we're in the theater?

I hope you all will check back weekly for new posts. One goal in my theater work is to create a conversation between strangers, and I would love it if this blog can encourage a dialogue between me, you, and all of the other readers at TheaterMania U. Don't hesitate to ask questions, argue a point, and share your own stories in the comments section of this blog. The theater community is known for being a close (and opinionated) one -- we can become a part of that now.


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