Committed to change

Photo: M.J. Chung

Part of the Invisible Diaries series:

Week 11 / Day 6

Week 11 / Day 5

Week 11 / Day 4

Week 11 / Day 3

Week 11 / Day 2

Week 11 / Day 1


I really miss seeing people in the flesh. Although I love the LMDA and have enjoyed the last two days of conferences, it is absolutely exhausting to sit through hours of Zoom conference talks, back to back, two days in a row. But here we go!

Session 1: A Real Time Writenow Workshop (sponsored by Page by Page)

Emma Goldman-Sherman demonstrated how she has adapted her approach to running playwriting workshops to a digital, socially-distanced world. We got to watch a workshop with playwright Jessica Carmona and some actors who performed a section of her play. We were then invited to discuss the piece together and offer feedback. Goldman-Sherman’s process is organic and relatively unstructured, relying on the professionalism of her participants.

Session 2: Hot Topics (sponsored by Nightswimming)

In this session, each speaker was given five minutes to discuss a topic relating to dramaturgy within a higher education context. Some thoughts that came up:

  • the importance of thinking outward in order to support writers and theatre: do we need so many Shakespeare productions, so many white canon plays, so many adaptations?

  • encouraging students to study abroad and learn languages strengthens the field by broadening our minds and experiences

  • four steps to every adaptation: initial circumstances, distanced traversed, conditions of acceptance or resistance, transformation

  • because of the systems in which we have to operate, dramaturgy is both a necessity and a luxury

  • it is important to emphasise subjectivity when teaching a practice-led dramaturgy course

Session 3: The Dramaturgs' Network and The Fence: Crossing Borders

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was working on since the 2019 LMDA conference to find new opportunities for collaboration between The Fence, the Dramaturgs’ Network and the LMDA. One of the outcomes of this is a panel we produced for this year’s conference, focusing on complexities of international dramaturgical collaboration. Across the US, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland and New Zealand, we covered topics such as verbatim theatre, translation, dance dramaturgy, how the dramaturg operates as an insider and an outsider, how artists can work across borders practically and intellectually, what you can do at a distance and what you can’t, and how to write about diaspora.

We were in four teams, each of which had worked on different projects across different countries. We had recorded our short conversations discussing the work, which could be accessed by conference participants in the ‘asynchronous content’ section of the conference website before the discussion, allowing our chair to ask us questions particular to our case studies.

It made me wonder if in the new world, where travel will be restricted, if we’ll be engaging in more international collaborations because we’ll be working digitally more often, or fewer ones because we’ll be less able to meet people abroad.

(Full disclosure: I missed session four in favour of a lunch break. But it was called ‘Tiny humans, big wonder: Dramaturging emotional support, linguistic boundaries, and theatre for the very young’, and I bet it was great.)

Session 5: Discussion groups

Similarly to my panel, session five was a discussion of a video in the asynchronous content on the LMDA website. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was impressed by Amissa Miller’s video essay ‘The Seeing Place: Black Audiences and the Racial Spectacular’, so I decided to sit in on that discussion. Amissa began the discussion by asking the audience if we can think of plays that don’t centre on black trauma, which make us consider how many, in fact, do.

The discussion was lively, fascinating and felt like one of the most urgent sessions I’ve attended over the past two days. We talked about how we can be antiracist in our dramaturgical practices; programming plays that are truly for black audiences, holding talkback sessions that are both safe spaces and places for honest reckoning, making antiracist training mandatory for all dramaturgs, leaning how to de-escalate sensitive situations during and after performances, finding better solutions to casting and racial parity that don’t entail so-called ‘colour-blind’ casting, understanding the importance of discomfort and finally, the responsibility of the black artist.

Session 6: Dramaturgismo en el contexto delo hiper: hipertexto, hipercomunicación e hipercultura / Dramaturgy in the hypercontext: hypertext, hypercommunication and hyperculture

In a Spanish-language session,