by Matt Ducey, BFA 4/Playwriting (Dramaturg for URINETOWN)
People always wonder what a dramaturg does. And it’s kinda hard to answer succinctly. The job varies from production to production. The best way I’ve heard it put is that if this were the movie Titanic, the dramaturg would know which silverware was used, where the forks went, how the ladies walked and will have researched all of the class structures of the ship. It’s our responsibility to know everyone and everything about the production.
In terms of my role in URINETOWN, the dramaturg is responsible for creating an actor packet, which we pass out at the first rehearsal, which talks about the themes of the show, the different specific references and general research about the show itself. The actor packet is meant to give the actors a broader sense of what’s happening in the show. For example, in the actor packet I included research and articles about water shortages in our current world which relates to the water shortage that plagues the people in URINETOWN.
Most of my research for URINETOWN was geared toward our current world. My goal for both the actor packet and program note was to bring the ideas of this fictional world into 2009 America. We are facing a huge global crisis, both financially and environmentally and the people of URINETOWN are facing the same challenge.
I was also fortunate enough to get to sit down with the creators of URINETOWN, Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann, and interview them about the show which I was then able to pass on to the cast and crew. I am also responsible for writing the program note, which is a short essay found in the program that speaks to a big theme in the show. My team and I will also be responsible for creating a lobby display that will help to immerse the audience into the world of the play while they’re waiting to get into their seats.
The dramaturg is the champion of the text. So when I go to rehearsals, the main thing I look for is , “Is the production being faithful to the script?”. I’m also looking for big story ideas. Are we getting from “Point A” to “Point B” smoothly, and without confusion.
This process has been thrilling. Dramaturging a musical has been a really unique experience and getting to experience the show along with the cast has been a joy.
Photo: Dramaturg Matt Ducey (third from right) observes a read-through rehearsal with URINETOWN creators Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman and members of the URINETOWN creative team.
Photo by Jake Kvanbeck