Dramaturgy in Dialogue: Philip Stanier

Transcription of online chat with Philip Stanier, artistic director of The Strange Names Collective, about the role of the dramaturg.
    • I would like to start by saying thanks for agreeing to be interviewed via Facebook
    • As it seems the most appropriate method for this conversation to take place
    • I also wondered if we could agree that anything we write now could be copied and pasted onto my blog at the end of the interview…
    • Perhaps with an agreed proofread between us
    • To amend any inaccuracies
    • Of course that’s fine and what I expected.
    • Michael went offline
    • Michael came back online
    • Michael is typing
    • Very funny. Then my first question. Some of which will be generic and some specific to the work I have seen and collaborated on.
    • What does the idea of an ‘outside eye’ or dramaturg mean to you?
    • Philip went offline
    • Philip came back online
    • So my answer has multiple parts, which I will try to keep brief.
    • 1: Brecht gave the definition of dramaturg reader, writer, literary odd job man. It’s that but much broader now du to the world we live in. My ideal dramaturg is someone with… and now I’m trying to be precise…
    • It is someone with a voracious appetite for the world.
    • they read, watch tv, films, play games, eat good food, listen to music, look at art, go on journeys, have friends and family, do some gardening, mend things, and then they apply that knowledge to what you put in front of them.
    • Hold on food delivery
    • Keep typing I’ll be right back, I have an answer about outside eye to expand on
    • ok back
    • So, the dramaturg is a researcher, but of every kind of material, they are there for connections, and to see.
    • ‘to see’, as in to engage with the work and be able to account for their experience. through this we get to encounter the work from the outside, or at least not so much from within.
    • This is where the idea of a dramaturg meets the idea of an outside eye, which is slightly different
    • .
    • The outside eye, which can be the same person, just needs to be someone who can meet the work, and tell you what they encounter, in the room as it were. They don’t ‘need’ those additional sets of knowledge, but they need to be someone who you either understand, or that you trust to talk to you honestly.
    • That sounds like what a smith describes as the ‘capacity to be frank.’ I wanted to ask if you / SNC have worked with a dramaturg /outside eye in the past or how you have seen your own role in the company as a dramaturg /outside eye?
    • So, I started as a dramaturg and writer for Ersatz Dance when I had just graduated. So that was a dual role of writing texts to brief, talking about the work, a lot of active listening, and watching the work. Very straightforward in those terms at least, but the conversations would spill off into very divergent complex areas, settling those discussions helped form the conceptual basis for the piece and the language in which it was couched.
    • Then outside eyes/dramaturgs for my work… not to begin with.
    • the audience were the dramaturgs
    • until I got to my fourth piece Long term happiness
    • when there were ‘helpers’ who were able in real time to help me understand how the piece was unfolding.
    • And now could you talk a little about how when we worked together you would often sit outside of the work to see it unfold
    • Then, with testimonial, gratitude I had co devisers
    • I wondered how much this was directorial and how much was dramaturgical
    • If there was a difference
    • now for ‘Prologue’ there is a dramaturg, another dramaturg, a consultant, and a host of invited voices.
    • Yes I saw that. And also with Prologue, it seems you have opened up the process more than before using Facebook as a voice, a dramaturgical space for reflection
    • Where you might be sharing ideas, threads, concerns, doubts and others will listen and might respond to share their own reflections on your process.
    • Yes ok so in order: In gratitude, to sit out and watch it unfold was both, but mostly directorial, to check what it was doing, how it functioned, looked, sounded, timing, space, delivery, feel, etc etc. Then in the detail it becomes dramaturgical, some decisions are made, or details seen because of what you ‘know’ or rather what the piece ‘knows’
    • As for ‘prologue’ the use of facebook is quite the little multiplicity.
    • But it is important to you that the creative dialogue is public. If it is a dialogue. Because to an extent you are talking to yourself. Or to other versions of yourself. If that is the concept.
    • its public nature is very important, it opens the work, the capacity for engagement and digression and overflow.
    • And each comment you make is a footnote on your own post so it resembles the structure of the performance in some way
    • i talk to myself, my dramaturg/production assistant assunta, I talk to collaborators, you, friends audience members.
    • An architecture of additions and revisions
    • exactly
    • a tweet is closed, a blog is mostly closed, books, articles, closed.
    • facebook has a particularly interesting quality which matches the show, and of my thought process, of the thread and their multiplicity.
    • The work is open. In terms of an open text (writerly rather than readerly – Barthes) so it makes sense that the dialogue is open.
    • That there are threads that never end
    • Barba talks about dramaturgy as weave
    • ‘the weave of performance and the process of weaving.’
    • And we might describe this as a message thread
    • A thread of conversation that is raveling or unraveling around the work
    • This might be a good time to pause. Shall I copy and paste and see how it reads?
    • yes great, i’m back but too and fro
    • so I should say that the writerly mode is very much what my process and work is in
    • and as such this also makes sense for me
    • OK that makes sense. It is also the means of communication with us that is interesting. We get an email that just says ‘Uncanny Valley’ and it is out of context but to you it is part of an ongoing narrative.
    • yes but if you google it, you’ll make the link by looking at other threads or seeing the show or reading the text
    • It is a book by Alistair Gentry?
    • no a great little theory and chart about when things become uncanny
    • He named his book after that then…
    • Thanks for messaging with me. Maybe we could have a more specific chat again soon. Talk more about Prologue and how the role(s) of the dramaturg(s) will work.
    • ok wrap up for now?
    • Really useful context here though. Will type up and send over tomorrow…
    • Yes I think so. Great to hear your opinion on it. Crystal clear and sharply written.
    • Thanks
    • Over and out

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