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Why Dramaturgy

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

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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