The New Face of Dramaturgy at Oswego State Theatre

‘Clybourne Park’, written by Bruce Norris, notably takes place in the time periods 1959 and 2009. With racism being evident the world of the play, the audience witnesses prejudice in America during both the Civil Rights Movement as well as the modern setting of 2009. Racism isn’t always obviously spoken about in the show, as it’s often shown in the context of microaggression. These contrasting worlds, one historically familiar and one that we live in, are portrayed in order to prompt the questions, “What am I like?” and “Do I do that?” Its prevalence takes different forms depending on the time period.With historical significance playing such a key part in the production, an important piece of the process is ensuring historical accuracy as well as performing script analysis. That is where the role of dramaturgy comes in.

This semester has brought many changes within Oswego State’s Theatre department, one of which has come from the hire of the new theatre history and criticism professor Dr. Toby Malone. Malone, whose experiences originated in acting, got his Ph.D. in Theatre at the University of Toronto and there shifted into focus on Dramaturgy. He was attracted to dramaturgy as it bridged the gap between performance and the scholarly aspects of theatre. His early work focused on the structure of Shakespearean plays. Through his work in dramaturgy with theatres, he ensured that the necessary cuts made to the heightened language of Shakespearean plays wouldn’t detract from the overall comprehension of the shows. His thesis research included analyzing cuts made to 16 different productions of ‘Richard III’ and analyzing the cultural beliefs and values of the different time periods based upon the cuts that were made to the individual productions. Malone within his teaching very much stresses the importance of the study of the textual structures of the plays as well as the typical research-based approach to dramaturgy.

The department in the past has become accustomed to assigning one student to act as the dramaturgy for each individual production. This semester, Malone’s THT334 Dramaturgy class are doing dramaturgy for both “Clybourne Park” and “Boeing, Boeing”. Students within the class are immersed in research and interpretation of texts within the realm of the current theatre season. Malone is integrating a digital aspect into the program, having students build a website known as a “Dramaturgy Hub” for both ‘Clybourne Park’ and ‘Boeing, Boeing’. Over his professional career, he had noted that having a book created by the dramaturg containing reference material for the actors often went underused, as actors often don’t have the time to sift through it. He then decided to adopt those resources into a website format. SUNY Oswego’s dramaturgy hub contains facts about different elements of the plays, an “Ask The Dramaturgs” section where members of the production team can submit questions, a glossary for complex language within the text, and other focused research developed by the dramaturg team. Students of the Dramaturgy class have been currently shadowing rehearsals and performances of the ongoing production ‘Clybourne Park’, which premieres Thursday, October 19th, 2017. The students are focusing on reviewing the progress of the show, checking for inconsistencies that need further research, and ensuring that the story being communicated onstage will be understood by the audience.

To see what SUNY Oswego’s THT334 Dramaturgy class has been up to, check out the updated Dramaturgy Hub for ‘Clybourne Park’ at

Also, don’t forget to see ‘Clybourne Park’ at Waterman Theatre Thursday, Oct. 19th, and Friday, Oct. 20th at 7:30 pm and Saturday, Oct. 21st at 2pm. Next week the dates are Thursday, Oct. 26th and Friday, Oct. 27th at 7:30 pm and Saturday, Oct. 28th at 2pm with an ASL interpreter.

#LakerTakeover: 24-Hour Theatre Festival

Our most recent #LakerTakeover on Instagram featured Spencer Ventresca showcasing the theatre department’s 24-Hour Play Festival, which saw writers, cast and crew hastily create, assemble and stage a new production.

SUNY Oswego’s Production of Grease

Last night, I saw Grease at the Waterman Theatre and was fairly impressed. The production was definitely pretty to look at, as it was very colorful and visually appealing (with the smoke on the stage and what not). The actors/actresses were very talented, but I do have my slight issues with it. The actor who played Danny and the actress who played Sandy didn’t really fit into their roles, and I didn’t think there was any chemistry between them. The actress who played Rizzo was utterly flawless, though; she couldn’t have done a better job, and I thought that she nailed Stockard Channing’s portrayal right on the head. I have only ever seen the film; this was my first time seeing a stage production.

Because I had only ever seen the film before last night, I wasn’t aware that the musical lineup was different on Broadway than it is in the film, so some songs were in slightly different order and were even omitted, songs that I would argue (again, based on my sole experience with the film) are crucial to the story, such as “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want.” The play is also missing “Sandy” and instead has the song “Alone at the Drive-In” during that scene. Also, there are two different versions of “We Go Together” in the stage production, one right before the end of Act 1 and then a reprise at the very end. My favorite musical number was probably “Those Magic Changes,” and the actor who sang that song did so beautifully, and I also really liked “Freddy, My Love.” Another crucial difference between the stage production and the film is that in the stage production, Sandy doesn’t go to the dance and sings “It’s Raining on Prom Night” in her bedroom, while in the film, she attends the dance.

It’s definitely a much different experience than the film, that’s for sure, and while I couldn’t have been happier with some of the cast members, there were others that I was not so happy with. I also feel that with the way some of the songs are ordered and with the lacking of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want,” the stage production is a lot choppier than the film and doesn’t flow as well. Lastly, I couldn’t help but look at the story through a different lens this time, since it has been quite a few years since I have seen the film, and looking at it from a feminist perspective, I couldn’t help but feel really disappointed. Throughout the story, Sandy and Danny just don’t click regardless of how many times they try. He keeps abandoning Sandy for other girls, and when they do make attempts to sustain a relationship (the drive-in scene is what I am referring to in particular), he tries to take advantage of her. Only when she submits to his will and conforms to his style do they finally work, so not only does it do away with the “be yourself” idea, it provides an example of a relationship that only works after the female realizes that if she wants to be with the male, she is going to have to conform, which echoes quite a few Disney films. I had a great night, though, and it was fun to watch.