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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama

Kentuckians in Theater

Dramaturg Julie Crutcher
Louisville, KY

Who Julie Crutcher was literary manager at Actors Theatre of Louisville from 1981 to 1986 and served as freelance dramaturg for Actors from 1986 to 1995. She teaches speech and theater at St. Francis High School in Louisville.

What “Dramaturgy is kind of an emerging field—or it was when I started in 1980. Before that, it existed mostly in Europe. There were not many dramaturgs in the U.S. until there was a great surge in new plays being written and produced in regional theaters like Actors Theatre of Louisville in the late 1970s. What a dramaturg does depends on whether you’ve got a live or dead playwright. Classical dramaturgy involves doing research on the time period and providing context for classical plays, like those written by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. When the playwright is there, a dramaturg is helping the playwright realize his or her vision of the play. You’re almost like an editor for the playwright, and the playwright’s eyes and ears in the rehearsal setting—for example, if you think something sounds odd or doesn’t make sense in the context of the play.”

When/Where “A dramaturg usually works during rehearsal hours, which can be odd hours—evenings and weekends. There is also some work early on—meetings, research in libraries, on the phone, and so on. The work takes place in an office, a theater, a rehearsal hall.”

How “You’ve got to do a lot of administrative work, to process a lot of stuff. Get scripts for plays in, read them, and get them out again. I had an ability to make playwrights feel they were being listened to by directors. You have to stick up for the playwrights most of the time. Since you’re not publishing anything and you don’t have a financial stake in the end product, the relationship between the dramaturg and the playwright becomes more of a friendship, a guardianship.”

Why “I liked getting to know playwrights. Writing letters was my favorite part of the job. I was in ongoing correspondence with about 75 writers. They’re such interesting people. I loved that network of talking to people, and it was so exciting to read their stuff.”

Getting There “Now there are many more programs in dramaturgy at colleges and universities. No matter what you do in theater, it’s really important to understand all aspects—acting, technical theater. And it’s important to read and read and read. And see stuff in theaters—bad stuff, good stuff. Theater is a very cumulative art, and the more you see and read, the more you do, the more you understand. You have to understand the process of how it all fits together. You can only understand it by going through it. It’s all theoretical until you’re on stage. You fly by the seat of your pants. That’s what makes theater so addictive. It lives in that moment ... and then it’s gone.”

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