March 16th, 2010
Jeffrey Gardner! Who are you?
Metaphysically? Ecumenically? I’m a freelance Director/Dramaturg, an amateur fiddle player, a commuting biker, and a lover of all things ancient. But we’ll get back to that later, I’m sure.
Sweet. What do you do for Sideshow?
I’m the dramaturg for Sideshow’s current production, “Medea with Child.”
Uh-huh…. What’s a dramaturg?
Funny question. The joke that we tell at all of our raging dramaturg parties is that one can graduate with an MFA in Dramaturgy from an Ivy League university and still not have a good answer. I’ll take a stab at it, though: a dramaturg is one part theatre researcher and one part open book. By which I mean: for a production such as this one, I provide background information on Greek history, the Medea myth, the transitions/conflicts between 2nd and 3rd wave feminism, Vodoun, Clochis, Filicide, earlier productions of Medea, and much more. I learn how to pronounce names from India, and double-check Latin translations.
However, with a play still in the early stages of development, a dramaturg takes on a very different role. They occupy an interesting space between the playwright and the director, as an “advocate for the play itself”- someone who has no ego or personal stake in the work, and whose sole responsibility is to push the play towards a higher state. Makes sense?
Got it! But, is that a real job out in the big wide world?
As opposed to the smaller, slightly confined world we’re in now? It certainly is.
How can I become a dramaturg?
Stay in school, kid. No, in all seriousness: like any profession, you become one by doing it. If you love reading books, cross-referencing dates, and digging through hundreds of pictures from old theatrical productions, Dramaturgy could be right for you. I came to it through a relatively maniacal obsession with Greek history–but really, anything will do to start you off. Start by learning everything you can about a subject, then tell people about it until they make you shut up. Move on to the next group. Rinse, repeat. Eventually, someone will ask you to do it for a living. Or at least, that’s my hope.
What do you do when you’re not dramaturg-ing for Sideshow?
I’m the marketing coordinator for Collaboraction, another awesome theatre company here in Chicago. I’ve worked, or am working with a number of other really swell groups, such as Eclipse Theatre, Strangeloop, Time of Your Life Players, the Fourth River Theatre Ensemble, et alia. I also hang around the Museum of Science and Industry and teach kids about WWII history every now and again. I used to play in an Irish punk band, but I’m just doing folky stuff these days. Occasionally I eat meals, and even more rarely, I sleep. Yep, that’s pretty much it.
How has your research for “Medea With Child” been going?
From a practical standpoint, I like to think it is going very well. I look forward to sharing some of it here with you on this very blerg! Right?
From a slightly more personal standpoint: the material has been vastly more difficult to process and cope with than I expected. I’m not sure why this has come as a surprise, but the process of immersing oneself in psychological studies, interviews, and more concerning women who murder their own children has been profoundly disturbing. I don’t have a lot more to say on that right here, but I do think it has been an important personal reminder of how lucky I am to be where I am today.
How come you took this gig with Sideshow?
Truthfully, I was very impressed by what I saw at the build for Ekphrasis. They’re a group of young professionals who really have their act together, which sometimes feels like a terrifyingly rare thing. The night of set construction and painting was organized, efficient, and everyone arrived and left on time. More than that, I think the mission statement really describes the kind of theatre I’m interested in being involved with right now: exciting presentations of, um, familiar stories. I think the “curiosity” is important as well: the only thing worse than mumbled Greek tragedy with a chorus of fifty men standing in the back of an auditorium is mumbled Greek tragedy with three men in black leotards who don’t understand the words they’re mouthing. I’m fairly confident that isn’t Sideshow, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the “Perpetually Curious” chunk of the mission statement has something to do with it.
Plus, it’s Medea! C’mon! Medea! How could I say no?
If you could interview ANY playwright dead or alive… who would it be?
Brendan Behan. Thespis. Robert Lepage. Any of the Greek playwrights who didn’t win any of the City Dionysia- or the guy who always came in second or third while Sophocles and Euripides were writing. I’d love to go to the pub with Martin McDonagh and Oscar Wilde. I think that would be a learning experience.
What’s your favorite type of play to dramaturge for?
Greek Tragedy is my comfort zone. I’d love to do one of the Greek Comedies next—there are a HUGE number of referential/political jokes that need 3-5 pages of footnotes apiece to explain. Man alive, if that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is.
Agreed, Mighty Dramaturg. Agreed. And Sideshow is thrilled to share the excitement with you. Thanks for sharing your skillz! Readers, to check out more about Mr. Gardner, check out his website.
“6.5 ft tall, 20 ft long! Big claw on the toe!
For those wanting to delve a little deeper: Generally considered the largest of the Dromaeosauridae family of Dinosaur (also consisting of the infamous Velociraptor and Deinonychus), the Utahraptor’s name translates from the Greek as “Utah’s Thief.” They appear as the villains in the Land Before Time XI, the popular webcomic “Dinosaur Comics,” “Walking with Dinosaurs” from the BBC—and for a really good time, check out the discussions on the History Channel’s website about “Utahraptor vs Megistotherium” from the popular program “Jurassic Fight Club.”
See what I did there? I slipped in a little dramaturgy. ”
Always thorough, Jeffrey “slipped” this info to me as well…
Jurassic Fight Club Link.
Next time I should ask him what stocks he thinks are looking up…. ; )