A Designer-Director-Dramaturg Dalliance | HowlRound Theatre Commons

Over four days we created a concept that empowered inclusivity and unbounded creativity. It also allowed us, for a short period of time, to conceive, dream, and deconstruct the extant systemic model of designer-director collaboration. We reimagined what it would look like if we could dream and create our own process not dictated by rules, norms, a top-down system, or a single person such as a director or producer.

Let’s delve into the process we developed: Designer-Director-Dramaturg Dalliance

It is important to remember that a dalliance is “interest or involvement in an activity that only lasts a short period of time.” When thinking about theatre and the production of plays, the time spent is a dalliance because for those involved it will only last short period of time. Thus, why not start the creative process with this idea in hand and involve everyone in the process?

An invitation is sent to the designers, director, and dramaturg to gather for a dalliance of two paid days where they will together conceptualize the world of the play. Prior to this the artistic director or producer would discuss the purpose of the gathering, producing this play, centering anti-oppression work, and offering resources for folks interested in continuing that work. When the designers are approached and invited into the process, they are given the script, theatre drawings, inventory lists, budget, and timeline. The designers, dramaturg, and director are asked to come to the gathering having read the play.

This process allowed for everyone in the room to share their first response without judgement and without a director dictating what the vision is.

Day One

On the first day of this short gathering, folks are welcomed into the space to engage in a deep conversation. Sitting together around a table, everyone in the room starts by getting to know knowing each other. While this might seem common sense, most production meetings start with introductions, and then a director shares their vision. Designers and directors often do not share the same space until tech. Many times, folks have been hired by the artistic director or producer, and they might have never met their collaborators before. In this process, however, whether they know each other or not, folks enter the space to introduce themselves to one another, develop community agreements, and share how they speak/present/identify, as well as what their boundaries and needs are. This gathering also normalizes different kinds of learning (life experience, education, other types of experience) so that we don’t use the privilege of education as fodder for gatekeeping.

It is critical to get to know one another and understand how folks would work together, especially before the tech and dress rehearsal process. In the space of this gathering, these creatives undertake a clearly formalized process of creating language and agreements about what to do if harm occurs so that there is a clear understanding of how to move forward. It is also important to intentionally create a comfortable, brave space for everybody, where spark and imagination are welcome. By creating this together at the beginning of the process, and by including every single person involved in the process, these conversations set up a space of care, listening, and understanding.

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