‘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 https://sites.google.com/oswego.edu/clybournehub/home
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.