Eric WernerClass of 2013 Working as a Dramaturgy/Literary Management Intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville
As a Dramaturgy/Literary Management Intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville, my favorite part about my job is that I never know what I’m going to be doing on any given day. I could be reading submissions to the National Ten Minute Play Festival, or researching 18th century English etiquette for a production of Tom Jones. I could be in a rehearsal room with five actors struggling to create a devised piece about a group of survivors after a post-apocalyptic atomic meltdown, or talking about different structures with a writer developing a new script. Sometimes all in the same day!
Now I know you’re asking, “How on earth did an English major land a spot working in a theatre?” The response: I couldn’t imagine doing my job coming from any other background. Over the course of four years of reading, talking about, and writing on some of the greatest works of literature, I honed the skills I now use everyday.
Through many rounds of drafting essays, I learned that writing is a process, and I learned to navigate that process. Part of what being a dramaturg means is being a Writing Advisor for a playwright as a script develops. I know firsthand that the masterpiece isn’t going to come out on the first draft, and can act as a backboard for the playwright to work off of. In a more tangible way, I have to be able to read, understand, summarize, and evaluate a tremendous amount of scripts. Actors Theatre receives over 700 submissions of ten-minute plays alone, which my fellow intern and I get to log, read, and evaluate. Having five postage boxes filled with scripts really puts the hundreds of pages of Ulysses into perspective.
When we decide which plays to produce in a season, the dramaturg works with the director and producing team to provide a context for the play. This means a lot of research. This means boards filled with images of things that may exist in that world. This means actor packets that explain references and provide historical context for the people that have to perform the play. Good thing I’ve spent many a wee-hour of the morning in the 24-hour Computer Lab trying to find the perfect scholarly, peer-reviewed article for a paper due a few hours later.
Above all, this job requires that I come to a new script with genuine curiosity, an attitude that was instilled and encouraged at Wittenberg. As I sip my office coffee from my red English Major Mug each morning, I am reminded of the people, the institution, and the degree that got me here, and I am deeply grateful.
Jordan HildebrandtClass of 2012 Hildebrandt graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Geology and Computer Science. Jordan is the first person to complete “The List.” The List is a collection of books that the professors in the English Department select as works they feel every student should read. While he was a student, The List consisted of 75 books ranging from ancient Roman literature to contemporary works (it is currently 61 books, as three professors have since retired or left Wittenberg). Having completed The List, Jordan was given the opportunity to add a book of his own and he chose "Flatland" by Edwin A. Abbott. After his completion of The List, we asked him a few questions about his experience in completing this English Department challenge.
On Completing “The List”
Q: How did it feel to complete The List?
A: Satisfying. Everyone who has baked muffins and only had enough batter for 11 knows how aggravating it is to have boxes left unchecked.
A: Not particularly. ~70 books in two years ~> 3 books a month. Some books were tremendously engaging, some were a slog. The hardest part was scheduling meetings to discuss them...
A: I've always been an avid reader, and this list introduced me to many quality titles I would not have discovered on my own. It's commonly discussed how every person has a unique lens with which they see the world - and individual books are no different. I match my wits and worldview with the novel's perspective in a quest to understand the surrounding world.
A: I read everything cold, i.e. with no background on the author/text besides what I already "knew." It was beneficial in that I sometimes had different insights into the work. Other times, it made it a less useful read than it could have been. First semester of graduate school, I took the class 'Poetry of Milton' from a leading authority on John Milton, which really made Paradise Lost much clearer.
A: Flatland is a sharp, 82-page social satire that, through the mathematical medium of multiple dimensions, advocates "higher-dimensional" thinking. It's a humorous book that covers many of the themes I think folks should contemplate. (Note: Flatland was introduced to me by Dr. Zaleha, Associate Professor, Wittenberg Geology)
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