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Tracking Dramaturgical Influence: Lessons from the Archive Urjo Kareda 1982-1986

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Title: Tracking Dramaturgical Influence: Lessons from the Archive Urjo Kareda 1982-1986
Author: Riley, Jessica
Department: School of English and Theatre Studies
Program: Literary Studies / Theatre Studies in English
Advisor: Knowles, Ric
Abstract: What difference does a dramaturg make? While recent publications on dramaturgical practice have begun to recognize the subjective and even creative influence of the dramaturg, this turn has been largely restricted to the field of production dramaturgy. When it comes to new play development, particularly of text-based, single-authored scripts, dramaturgical influence remains a fraught and under-examined subject. Drawing on original archival research, this dissertation examines the nature and implications of developmental dramaturgy as it was practiced by influential Canadian dramaturg Urjo Kareda. Chapter one lays the groundwork for this study. Engaging with and troubling the received narrative of Kareda’s role in Canadian theatre history, this chapter draws on Kareda’s published writing and interviews as well as a range of extant archival records in order to reconstruct the subjective tastes, priorities, and preoccupations that informed his dramaturgical practice. Building on this foundational sense of Kareda’s dramaturgical sensibility, subsequent case studies examine the influence of Kareda’s feedback on three scripts developed in the first four years of his artistic directorship at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre: Rachel Wyatt’s Chairs and Tables (1983-1984), Don Hannah’s The Wedding Script (1984-1986), and Judith Thompson’s White Biting Dog (1982-1984). These case studies track each playwright’s negotiation of Kareda’s comments and questions through dozens of drafts (including, crucially, those marked up by Kareda), revealing the often unacknowledged and unexamined contributions of dramaturgical feedback to the trajectories of script development. Supplemented by interviews with the playwrights, these case studies offer the first archive-based analysis of the processes and influences of developmental dramaturgy, identifying new ways of thinking about the role and practice of the dramaturg. Each case study intervenes in ongoing debates about approaches to developmental dramaturgy in Canada and internationally, evolving an argument for the recognition of the dramaturg—often idealized as occupying a neutral and non-prescriptive position of service to the playwright—as a shaping, creative force in new play development.
Date: 2015-08
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