Assistant Artistic Director, Claire F. Martin, interviews Amrita Ramanan, Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, about her work as a dramaturg of new plays and classical texts, and how OSF embeds dramaturgy into its artistry.
Learn more about our guest speaker at https://www.osfashland.org/en/artist-biographies/artistic-staff/amrita-ramanan
Contact us at [email protected]
Make a monthly, sustaining pledge on Patreon to support the work of Sweet Tea Shakespeare and its artists. We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization.
Sweet Tea Shakespeare: Patreon: patreon.com/sweetteashakes
The show is produced by Claire Martin and Jeremy Fiebig.
Our Director of Engagement is Ashanti Bennett. Jen Pommerenke also assisted with this episode.
This project is supported by the Arts Council in part by contributions from businesses and individuals, and through grants from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.
We’re here to tell you about one of our sponsors. Anchor if you haven’t heard about Anchor, you should know it’s, The easiest way to make a podcast. We’re using it even now to make this very podcast. Let me explain why Anchor is so great. First of all, there’s a Shakespeare connection. There is a very famous Anchor pub, just a stones throw away from Shakespeare globe in London. Next to you should know that Anchor is free. They’re our creation tools that allow you to record and edit your podcast right from your phone or computer.
And we’ve done both today. Anchor we’ll distribute your podcast for you hassle-free so it can be heard automatically on Spotify, Apple podcast, and many more platforms where your listeners will find it. You can make money from your podcast through Anchor with no minimum listenership, it’s everything you need to make a podcast all in one place it’s super easy, and we could not recommend it more highly to get Anchor download the free Anchor app or go to anchor.fm to get started.
Hello, I’m Claire Martin it’s lunchtime. Hear at Sweet Tea Shakespeare grab a bite to eat and settle in for this Sweet Tea Shakespeare at Lunch Hours enjoy. Good morning. Good morning. Claire how are you? I’m great. How are you doing? Doing really well this morning. Thank you so much for coming on our show. It’s just it, as we said, its great to see your face again. Oh, it’s wonderful to see you and thank you so much for having they may.
Anyone who is listening out there. Thank you so much for joining us today. I am thrilled and honored to announce that we are joined by Amrita Ramadan, who is the director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is a place that I have mentioned many a time on this podcast. It’s quite formative for me, but she has a resplendent a career in, in theater and specifically in the realm of Dramaturgy before coming to OSF she was the Literary Manager and Artistic associate of arena stage. Ah, and she also served as associate producer and dramaturg of double-edged theater.
She has a sort of rich background working with both classical plays, classical stories and also new players and new playwrights. And I’m very excited to talk with her about her practice and her craft and sort of where she sees theater moving. As we, as we go through this incredibly unprecedented time of the pandemic and also sort of hopes that she has for the after times and kind of just what moves her as an artist. So a Amrita just like, thank you so much for joining us. It’s like an honor to have you on our show kind and generous introduction.
I’m very flattered and I’m really proud to be on your show. Claire I’ve listened to other podcasts. It’s an incredible show that you’ve put this together. Thank you for having me. Thank you for being here. So I think the first thing I want to talk about his sort of starts at OSF just because that is, that is our access point to knowing each other. And also it is where I have been able to witness the majority of your work that that has sort of happened there. So I would love for you to talk a little bit about sort of your role at OSF and sort of particularly meaningful parts of it and maybe a couple productions that have really sort of resonated with you.
Hey, thank you for that. I feel incredibly fortunate to work at the Oregon Shakespeare festival that I’m not even kidding. When I say that the job is very much a dream job. It’s the job that when I was setting Dramaturgy in college, this was the aspiration that I had. And as the director of Literary to the development of Dramaturgy there’s many different components to the job, primarily I would say I focus on the dramaturgical work and essentially commissioning support for writer’s.
I spend quite a bit of my time and energy Dramaturgy in production for the Oregon state, for Festival as well as supervising and mentoring a beautiful cadre of dramaturg that works across the 11 shows that we have the Festival something that I believe have a personal practice is that Dramaturgy is just as important in its full election, as any member of the creative team, a Dramaturgy I feel placed that’s a unique and necessary role and the process of any production.
And so I will always consult with directors and playwrights on who they would like to work with the dramaturg and how they like to collaborate with dramaturg and then make a selection for the show was on stage. And sometimes that ends up being neat sometimes its not. And I think there’s a beautiful combination of how you actually individualize the process of collecting Dramaturgy. So that is a very important part of by role. And then within Dramaturgy I have had the great gift of working across a number of different genres of production. I’ve worked on Shakespeare I’ve worked on musical, such as Oklahoma.
I worked on world premiers. I’ve worked on plays in their second or third production. And each of those provides a very unique, you know, connection to how one thinks as a dramaturg. But I would say what of central is, you know, there is consistently a connection too, how the story is told and how the story is meant to be received by an audience based on the intention or believed in attention to the writer, but the writers are no longer living. And so I feel across every single one of those storytelling is a key aspect of my own analysis and my advocacy, how to advocate for this story, how to at the story.
And then in addition to that, I support the conditions that the Literary off the polls. So we commissioned a number of playwrights to write the original plays. Sometimes the commissions are attached to a specific theme or genre sometimes they’re completely open and ah, it’s a wonderful experience. Being able to constantly communicate with the writer’s and do their work does dialup. And most recently my role has transformed to being one of the curatorial liters of AU, which is Oregon to take for Festival new immersive platform for a digital art and engagement’s and a, this has been a dream of many members of the Oregon Shakespeare festival for at least the last five to six years.
And when I joined in 2016, I was very interested in digital engagement and the practices of digital Dramaturgy a thriving shows of supporting all the audience dialog through digital content. And thankfully when the talkie Garrett, our wonderful, amazing artistic director came on board, she really held a vision that supported this work. So as soon as the quarantine hit, we started activating some of our plans. And if you go to, Oh, you’ll see a variety of conversation series, you’ll see a variety of theories that focus on a different teaching models to support families learning about different elements of storytelling.
You’ll see a event based programming. So we had a beautiful array of programming that actor Christiana Clarke, curated for a Juneteenth. So it’s been a fantastic experience to actually translate storytelling in the digital sphere, in my role, and really consider what does Literary Development look like when you’re working digitally. Yeah.
And O has been, you know, sort of a tremendous, like a treasure trove for me, sort of from home, I’ve been able to access these beautiful recordings of play’s as well. So I’ve been watching these, these events and these wonderful interviews and, and livestreams and other sort of new platform pieces. But also I feel like I’ve been able to dive into the past a little bit. And I heard for instance, the, sort of the, the audio of a pair of Oakley’s they happened at OSF and was in 2014,
But it was, it was completely transformative for me because I had, I had seen Paris please, and I had read the play, but I realized I had never just listened to, to it. And I think that’s common for most of us who are, who are in theater. We don’t typically just listen to, we either read them or we see them. And there’s this very interesting sort of liminal space in between of just hearing actors who are completely and fully in touch with their character who are, who are embodying and living those sort of those beautiful emotional journeys.
But there’s no, there’s no visual language. There’s no visual storytelling attached to it. And I, I felt like I paid attention to the language and a whole new way. And I felt like I heard some of the, some of the imagery that Shakespeare sort of conjuring with his language in the new way. And I felt very, very intimately close to the performers.
Oh, that’s beautiful to hard when you’re,
You know, when you’re seeing a theater in a, in a giant, you know, when you’re seeing a play in a gigantic space, if you’re sitting sort of far back, you can appreciate the spectacle, but sometimes it can be hard to feel like you’re really communing with those actors. Cause they’re just by distance so far away from you, but when you’re listening to a play and it’s just you and the voices in your ears, it, it feels very individualized. I felt like the story was being told to me, like I was like, I was personally being invited into the world. And that was, that was quite inspiring for me.
As I begin a process of, of directing these full cast radio dramas, we did dr. Fastest last month actually tonight we start William Congreves is the way of the world. Next month I have an all women and non-binary cast. We are doing a two gentlemen of Verona, a project called no Jen to gents and we’re taking, we’re taking this, we’re taking inspiration from this idea that there is so much character work that can happen. And there’s so much sort of beautiful relationship building that can happen, even if it’s just for an audio version of apply.
Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah. I think there’s so much that we can learn from that experience. A, you know, there’s often this, the thing with audiences of Shakespeare time where they would go to here a play. And I think that the hearing of it is something that I’m very excited about in this, in this world and this world that we’re having. And it actually leads me to, I never answered the final part of your question in terms of favorite production, but, and it leads me to that because when I think of my favorite productions on the Oregon Shakespeare festival and they were productions and they were very holistic in terms of the importance of hearing the language in conjunction with also the visual storytelling, that was a place and shaping the narrative and a few people that come to mind, I’ve worked on a production of Henry Henry five with Director Rosa Josie in 2018, which Claire I know you remember very well.
We’ve talked about this production and it’s, you know, it was, it was an incredible production for many reasons. You know, Rosa is a, you know, Bertha is the director of South Asian descent and who, you know, lived in Nepal and then came to the States and has a very interesting relationship with Shakespeare. You know, she predictively gravitates towards what are known to be the history plays. And she’s renamed that John rhe as the political workplace, because she feels like ultimately those places focus on the strong resonance of the politics and war throughout history.
And she has found her course of reclamation in terms of telling these stories with Barry color conscious casting with a, a very dynamic of the approach to the movements and the sensorial world of the place and within an a, a true interrogation of how these plays seek to the cyclical nature of war of ambition of familial ties that we can essentially learn from it this moment. And so her price to Henry five love just extraordinary because the way she was able to fully unpack that play with our castes and find ways to truly uplift all of those resonances with a plan to make them feel absolutely current and connected to our time today, I loved the way that she also was just very in depth and very deft with her texts analysis, you know, every word she considered incredibly meaningful to unpack, but she also is not afraid to make, make cuts for the sake of, you know, supporting a very actionable story.
And so I often find that her route to approaching shaker, which is true, I think for many directors is one of adaptation that she truly adapts a script to this current moment. And then a I’d loved her sense of play. You know, we, we essentially constructed assess that ended up being a number of a community and boxes that were stacked together. And these boxes were able to transform into a barricade into it to a castle, into many different elements that supported the world of the play.
And at the very end, a, the entire cast ran to the boxes and pulled out clothing that with fully dyed and read, and that was meant to represent all of the bodies, all the losses within four. And, you know, the way in which rows is able to take metaphore and create something that is truly This, this is the role and incredibly tangible altogether. You know, you felt that moment and you felt the impact of war. It was regulatory for me as a dramaturg working with her and then another production that comes to mind.
Well, actually two others, I’ll say I, I had the privilege of being the Dramaturgy for the second reductions of no in mid summer, by Francis the cow HIG and Cambodia broadband by a lot to me. And I will openly confess that, ah, as the drama of her guy fall in love with many scripts, I have the opportunity to often meet playwrights through their words. And those were two scripts that I fell in love with in the season planning process I heavily advocated for, and the great benefit have a second production is a second production does a lot.
You too take the sound Istation of the first production and play with it. And so with both of these deductions, both writers were invested in some level of script changes. They were very invested and transforming the production the way in which the plays manifested physically on stage to new theaters and to a, just a new environment with the audience. And both of them also allowed me to tap into my deep passion for dramaturgical research and how you unpack the world of the play.
You know, both of those pieces were rooted in, you know, a, a deep dramaturgical context, no, in mid summer with an adaptation of one of the oldest Chinese dramas and incorporated many different elements around China today that, you know, related to capitalism and as well, and the change. And so being able to unpack both worlds was an incredible experience with the actors and then with Cambodian rock band as well, it’s a play that fancy, you’re a stand at the time of 30 years’ and unpacking the history of Cambodia that is still very unknown in this country in terms of the dentist’s side of the Khmer Rouge and the aftermath of that was hugely necessary for our cast and for everyone involved.
And so I often find myself having great dramaturgical July when there’s a really present relevant potency to the work that I am I’m collaborating with. And when there’s a way in which audiences suddenly find something revealed to them, you know, that there’s a true element of surprise in the process of watching the production. And there’s a true element of desire to learn more. And I felt with all three of those production, that’s what happened.
Oh, that’s so wonderful to hear. And I completely agree. I mean, I, I didn’t get to see snow in Midsummer, but I was transformed by Cambodian rock band and Henry five was actually changed my life. Like I know that’s such a cliche. I know that’s so corny to say, but it actually, it really did that. And the Henry Ford is actually changed my life and made me want to do what I do for a living. And something that has been really was really meaningful for me as I was growing up and attending the Oregon Shakespeare festival every now and again, living in Portland, Oregon, I have always appreciated the Dramaturgy permeates the Festival and not just the shows, right?
The shows aren’t, the shows are beautiful works of art that are so clearly enriched and illuminated and deepened by the Dramaturgy that is happening. And I know that that is in large part due to sort of your, your advocacy and your, your work ethic and the way that you approach your craft, but also Dramaturgy is not limited to those rehearsal spaces, those performance spaces. It really, umm, it is, it’s sort of much more, it’s much broader than that. You know, you see, I see interviews between sort of actors and directors and designers and dramaturgs and interns and cast members where they get to talk about not only the art itself is the process of making the art and the process of discussing how that art, you know, speaks to the world that we’re in today.
The program’s are full of sort of rich dramaturgical Resources so that audiences can feel like they have, they have, you know, hand and footholds on the side of the rock wall of these stories, especially the ones that are less known to us there is there’s just like a profound commitment to like welcoming people into the whole, the holistic experience of theatre. And that doesn’t just begin an end when the lights go down and come back up. Right. It’s it’s, it’s more than that.
And I can recall so many times at Cambodian rock band is a great example of intermission coming and just watching, listening the Russel of pages as all the audience members pulled out their programs, because they knew that there would be Resources that they could read about, about Cambodian history in full pot. And like The because we don’t learn about it. We don’t We I knew nothing about it before I went and saw that show, but the Festival is sort of has this ethos of providing the audience with sort of a fertile contextualizing soil and that they can, they can watch the shows from.
And so it’s yeah, there’s something very, like, I think there’s been very empowering about seeing, seeing a play at the Oregon Shakespeare festival because it, I feel every time I walk away from one, I feel like I have learned not only about our world, but about that world and also about sort of metaphorically the world of the people who put the show together, I get a sense of what they were moved by and what they were interested in. And that is a very, it sort of intimately brings you in, in a way that not all theaters do.
So that’s, I’ve just always appreciated the way, the way that they’re is this like Ubiquiti of Dramaturgy.
Oh, thank you. Thank you for saying that. An a and I don’t think anyone could have said it any better in terms of the desire, and I’m glad that manifesting in that way for you. You know, when I think about it, the Dramaturgy that I find incredibly inspiring or are those that have always looked at Dramaturgy holistically and Dramaturgy that have often considered a company is Dramaturgy to be part of their role as a dramaturg. So I agree with you that I think, you know, the shows that we have on the main stage are an incredible component of the artistry of OSF, but certainly not the only component to the artistry of OSF and the way in which the Festival desire’s to engage.
There’s a 1000 education programs that exist. There’s a number of laboratories and workshops that we provide. There’s a, you know, other forms of engagement that are truly dramaturgical that exist within the Festival. And then to your beautiful point, you know, I, I really feel like Dramaturgy, it is not something that should be reserved to the moment when the lights go down in the theater. I think that if Dramaturgy is truly effective, it continues. It is, it is a constant inquiry and a desire for, for learning that continues beyond the end of a performance and allows for that, you know, that inquiry and desire to be held.
So, you know, so we often think of performances as well as the way in which we shared the Dramaturgy to be another form of access and independent resource so that every audience member, every person who has, you know, who connects with the work has the opportunity to activate their own sense of research and desire in the process.
And you have spoken to this a little bit, but I would love to hear you talk more about why it is important for you that OSF is committed to championing new works, commissioning new works of working with new playwright’s, whether its in sort of, of an original script, like a fresh texts or a text, its only been performed a few times. Why is that meaningful for you? And why does it enrich the Festival
Yeah. You know, well I actually feel, and just this may sound like a contradiction, but I will, I will expand on it. But I think of the Shakespeare Festival we have a strong responsibility towards cultivating Newark. And the reason that I say that is when I think of the work of Shakespeare, when I think of the, the practice of Shakespeare Shakespeare with rigorously generating new plays in what I would consider actually given the amount of plays, he was able to generate a very short amount of time and, and the plays were responsive to have community and his society.
He was known top plays that brought together individuals from every economic intersection to be able to witness the work. And I feel in the spirit of that, that any Shakespeare Festival and including ours should have a rigger to word the discipline of supporting playwrights living today that our continuous degenerating work, that our continuously generated work, that it as responsive to their world in their society and that are moving towards a different spaces of equity and inclusion as we see it.
And so I, I find that, you know, it’s, to me it’s essential admittedly, it’s also a deep passion of mine. You know, there’s nothing like the experience a as a, Dramaturgy working with a playwright who is generating a new play and witnessing the process of how to support them and being able to really be a true collaborator in their journey and their journey of reaching and finding that story. And, and I think Shakespeare was able to, as a result of, you know, the rigor of his work as, and the individuals he was working with who managed to successfully catalog has worked, he was able to allow the history of a time to be remembered through his art.
He was able to allow for his plays to have deep resonance a long after they were first performed. And I think that we also have the opportunity to do that today. There’s, you know, an incredible, incredible bevy of playwrights right now who are working and generating stories that are truly transformative and, you know, get to the heart and guts of what we grappling with as a society. And, and thankfully more and more voices that you know, were wants to oppressed and marginalized that are now being lifted that are now being supported, particularly the voices of, you know, by POC play a writer, you know, a female play, right?
So I, I think that we, we have a responsibility as theater makers, ah, to be able to support it is it is essential in every aspect of theater. It’s the central to the economics. We are paying, living playwrights to tell their stories. It is essential for a audience members to be able to engage with stories that are speaking to the present in inquiry of writers today, it is essential for every theater makers should be able to engage with playwrights and support that creation of story for us to create, you know, a cannon of, of what today is on the same way that takes her so effectively dead.
Hello, are you enjoying the episode so far, then you should consider joining the Sweet Tea Shakespeare Patrion community. As we gear up for another exciting season of shows, concerts and events, we are issuing a challenge to boost our monthly Patrion sustainer giving for a pledge of as little as $5 a month. You can ensure that Sweet Tea Shakespeare can continue making delightful content all year round. You can also buy a season ticket that will grant you access to all of our exclusive Patrion content along with reserve seats, to every one of our performances.
For more information on season tickets, check out our [email protected] to join our Patrion and community. You can find us at patreon.com/sweet Tea Shakespeare thanks so much. One of those sort of most wonderful branches of that work is the American revolution series, which I have been fortunate to see sort of several iterations of. And I would love to hear you talk a little bit more about it. But before that, I just want to say for our listeners who may not be aware, the Oregon Shakespeare festival has a sort of unique running system of the way they run the shows.
So I’m what is very common in the 11 show season four or five of those shows we’ll open in the summertime because its that will happen in the, in an outdoor theatre. The rest will open in late February, early March in what you will often find is one, one performer in the company. One actor will be in one show that runs for that sort of long 10 month span, nine months span of, of sort of early March two through the end of October. And then they will, they will pick up and they will be in another show that runs concurrently that starts in the summertime.
And that will run to the end of October. And what is delicious is that those plays are often a pairing of a brand new play and original text or like a very sort of recently performed play and to Shakespeare. And so you’ll get to watch the same with the same actor with the same, the same voice and body into a completely different worlds, sort of utilizing different tools from their, their tool kit as performers and, and fully living.
And those experiences, even though the text could go from being whatever, you know, colloquial Oklahoman to, to sort of Shakespearian versus the truth of their character is at the same. The, the, the commitment of their souls to the storytelling is the same. And there is something very powerful and Tea like almost it almost bends time getting to watch the actors live in, in Shakespeare’s world and in the world’s of these, these beautiful new plays.
And so that’s been, that’s just kind of a, that’s an aspect of the way that OSF has run. That is a, has always been quite sort of magical for me as someone who just deeply admires actors. And I think as a, I think as a Director, I just have this, like I’m just constantly, I’m constantly dumbfounded by actors and, and humbled by the vulnerability that they share with the world. It’s just a, its a beautiful thing. And I think that OSF invites them to, to, to bear their souls in, in two very different ways, often concurrently in a way that just helps us as audience members appreciate the full scope of their capacity as, as storytellers and it, and it also, it is, it is very, is very special to watch plays written by American playwrights as an I completely agree, playwrights who’s voice is sort of historically have been marginalized and oppressed, but also to know that these people are alive and they are walking among us, that they are Our, you know, there the, the, the world that we are in, because I think that sometimes it’s Shakespeare festivals, there is an English situation that happens where even if there are other plays that are performed, we tend to receive them from, from England and, or sort of the continent of Europe.
And it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to experience plays that in many ways, for a very distinctly American in conjunction with these plays that, you know, we, we, we know at our well-aware were received from, from the UK. So with the American revolution series, like, like what is it and how does it work? Why is it exciting to you?
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I have to start that by saying a huge shout out to Alison Kerri and Julie Felise, Duke ner, who a essentially Alison founded the American revolution cycle with a Artistic director, bill Rausch. And then Julie was the associate director for many years. And so I speak on their behalf because they have really been guiding this program to great effect. And a, the program itself was essentially a hybrid of this in investigation and inquiry around how to create a Canon for our time and the way that Shakespeare created a Canon for his time.
And also how to uplift a true, you know, a true variance of voices and the politics and perspective within the way, in which we recognize history, we recognize moments of change. We recognize the way in which we tell stories. So Alison has told me the story about this program, where she actually engaged in listening to her with company members at the Oregon Shakespeare festival and the community members.
And from that she had posited the question around what if writer’s and ensembles wrote, wrote about a moment of change in American history. And what if we, what if we commissioned 37 play’s to match shake group cannon so that we were creating a Canon of today, and that is what became the American revolution cycle. Ah, the, ah, commissioned artists have been all, all commissioned. Now we were essentially commissioning artists and cycles.
So, you know, initially there were, you know, grouping of artists commissioned another grouping. And then as a, this past year, we commissioned our final artists’ for the program of a brand and Jacob Jenkins, who, of course we’re all very excited about and you know, what has been, so I think, you know, profound yet. And also I would say, you know, very foundational to the program and is that Allyson and Julie had a really gave the authors quite a bit of freedom around what is their topic?
You know, what do they want to focus on a much time to do they want to develop and provided them with resources, there’s support and development to support eventual productions. But it really, for the most part, there were a few commissions that were more the magically selected. So, you know, there was particularly a condition about a gun violence that was, that was specific a condition about environmentalism and environmental change that was specific, but most of the conditions have been very open and it has resulted in, you know, just such incredible work, you know, ranging from, you know, Lynn Nottage to a sweat, to university party people to our most recent world, premier American revolution.
Karen is Zachary has the copper children, which are currently streaming on the platform and I’ve been so moved by the guidance. Alison is provided to support writers’ and ensembles truly and fully telling a story that relates to their viewpoint of history and change. And, and at sometimes at some point it’s also their desire for where we can go their vision for the future.
That’s great. And, and so many of these plays, the, I have seen from, from this commission are profoundly intersectional in a way that’s a very moving and, you know, OSF approach to theater, making into storytelling is rooted in intersectionality. And so I don’t want to imply that is limited to these plays, but because the, the inciting, or I suppose like the engendering prompt for the American revolution cycle was moments of change moments of like seismic tectonic plate shifting change in America.
Even if those moments are ones we don’t actually know about, or we don’t receive in our education necessarily, umm, there is this, there is this awareness that these playwrights have of like what are all of the multifaceted sides of these moments like and what are all of the different threats that are being sort of brought in and nodded together to get us to this very specific moment of transformation for better or for worse? That to me is profoundly Shakespearian because Shakespeare was always looking at his events, his moments from so many different angles and he would have, he would have characters of, you know, who would conventionally have very little status or, or not really be integral to the plot.
He would have them offer insight into what was happening. Often putting words into the mouths of sort of lower born characters or women or servants and people who we may not even see again, you know, to, to give a, a different kind of lens to, to allow the audience, to look at this thing. I’m from a perspective that was not of elite male privilege. And so the American revolution’s plays, they’ve been so exciting to me because they feel multidimensional and they feel intersectional in a way that that sometimes Shakespeare’s plays are at Shakespeare.
I think more intersectional in terms of class structure. He is often picking and choosing characters from different parts of the class ladder and, and in America we have so many other forms of intersectionality. You know, we have the LGBTQ plus kind of perspective. We have, you know, BiPAP artists and they’re and their perspective in the experience of living in this country as a person of color, we have the female perspective and often generations of women and in all of these plays are always taking into consideration a plethora of perspectives and viewpoints and I, that makes them, you know, sort of extremely exciting and also makes them feel very relevant and very fresh.
And so, yeah, so that’s been a that’s, you know, that’s been a really exciting endeavor that OSF has gone on that I’ve been able to sort of watch unfold over the past past few.
Beautiful. And I would say with that too, which I think is also a great credit to the program that I, it is shown me and I think shown artists, audience, everyone who’s been able to collaborate on these works, that history is not re represented within a monolithic style or aesthetic. And so we’ve experienced plays that are telling a story through the lens of, you know, great comedy. You know, we’ve had both the ensembles culture clash and the 1490 ones produced the American revolution pieces that a really responded to their inherent style.
That is one of comedy. And I’ve found with both of those pieces, just, you know, the incredible gifts of, of, of how I received the history to be fascinating within the, you know, the context of sound and a static, you know, a universe is their, their aesthetic is the one that’s rooted in, you know, the beautiful fusion have music and poetry and movement and all of these different components that all up the full experience with their performances.
And so that when telling the story of the black, black Panther’s and young Lords, they brought that a step back to the storytelling fully. And so I think that’s been very interesting too, and, and is also a reminder of a work of Shakespeare that, you know, Shakespeare, I often say it are one of, one of the things that I will always give credit to Shakespeare for is that I felt he was an incredibly experimental writer. I felt like his work banned a number of different genres that have been recategorized throughout history. I felt like his, the way in which he played with neater with, with vers and pros, you see such fascinating variations from play to play the, the structure of the plays.
I felt there were, there were absolutely changes and shifts through the entirety of his career. And so I I’m always appreciative that I felt he was boundary pushing in the way in which he told stories. And with American revolutions, I know that was something that was deep in the consciousness of Alice and to make sure that we were not receiving, you know, a handful of realistic dramas, that we were constantly looking at the writers’ and the ensembles to be representative of so many different styles and the aesthetics
That’s fantastic to hear. And also, I think that’s been something now that I think about it that has also been a wonderfully characteristic of my times at OSF. Cause I try to see multiple shows whenever I’m down there. Some shows make me potentially aware that I’m watching a play, right? Many, many productions are quite met at theatrical, whether that’s, whether that’s via The the actors having a direct address, having a, having moments with us as an audience or whether the show itself invites Mehta theatricality or the text, and sort of reminds us, we’re watching a story.
I have also seen plays at OSF in which I lose consciousness of myself. Right. I lose track of the fact that I’m, that I’m in an audience at all. And I, I become immersed in that world. Umm, and the fourth wall does not sort of alienate you from the story, but it certainly makes me kind of lose track of the reality that is like out in the house. You know, I just sort of find myself in, in that world, in that place and that kind of, that kind of rich variety is, I mean, I’m the one hand it’s just, it’s very entertaining from an audience perspective, right?
Cause there’s a, there’s there’s such joy in being told stories and a myriad of different ways. But it also, I mean for me is it is a Testament to the festivals, ongoing commitment to never, never choosing one answer or one approach. And when you have 11 plays, perhaps you sort of, you have to, you have to think in terms of variety and variegation, but there is this I’ve seen so many different kinds of plays and different.
I’ve been told so many different kinds of stories by, by companies of, you know, very different actors, actors of different ages and races and ethnicities and experience levels. And you know, at that is that is also enriching because I think it is, it’s a profound reminder. Every time I go down there that theatre his is never a monolith and it cannot be, we cannot allow it to become on a lift. We can never allow it to stagnate into something that is repetitive and preformed.
We have to allow it to be, to, you know, to be as malleable as we are as people we have to allow it to the art form, to evolve with us. We have to be, you know, we have to be open and willing to explore experiment, you know, find new ways in a new ways of inviting audiences in. And I think that in This in this pandemic moment, the launch of O and the way that, that OSF is making so much of its material accessible to, to an online audience that can extend so far beyond the state of Oregon like over, over, over the borders of countries, right?
Like, like our, our capacity in this digital age to share art broadly and to bring it to people who would not ordinarily have the resources to be able to see it, that is like, it’s a magical and profound thing. And so even, even though we mourn mourn the loss of, of being at a rehearsal room, just hearing the heartbeat’s of, of, of people in a room with me making art, I miss, I miss that process, but I’m also reminded that like, this is this, this digital, this digital platform, digital streaming is just another new way of telling stories.
It is an, it is another form of, of the variety. And so it’s just a new strain. And I think I I’m trying to embrace that because I think that a theater endures so long as we, you know, sort of, we have endurance as artists. And so I think that there’s, I think there’s great hope for the form because it is because it is We, it is continuing to adapt even during these, these dark times of sort of physical separation.
Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes, yes. To all of that. Yeah.
And what is it as a M as a dramaturge? So you work with, as you say, playwrights that are living in playwrights that are no longer living. Umm, what is sort of perhaps your favorite part of working as a dramaturg with a living playwright versus a working on say dress where Dramaturgy a Shakespeare in collaboration with a director.
Yeah. So a working with a live in Claire the ideal four for a dramaturg well, of course, you know, there are variances as to what exactly that working relationship is based on the playwrights needs done the needs of the production. I would say by and large, my experience working with living playwrights have been a very intimate one in regards to supporting the shaping of the story and truly collaborating on the way in which the story is told to best meet the full intention and potential of the playwright involved.
And so I, I love the experience of watching a story being formed. I love the experience of the, you know, constant, consistent collaboration of what it means to receive rewrites a what it means to find, you know, find the possibilities within a story witnessed change. So I find that new play development with the playwrights that is living as constantly evolutionary.
And then, you know, what’s been interesting is I’ve had, I’ve had both the experiences of working with writers who are heavily engaged in the shifting of a play, who of, you know, written a draft, the play goes into production and they are heavily engaged in the rewriting process. And then also with living writers who by the time that, you know, the Oregon to take for Festival produces to play, they feel like they have found their story. And there are a few changes within this script, but it still becomes equally incredible to be able to collaborate with them in terms of recognizing what their story is.
So with any play, I always seek out intention of, of the author. I always seek out how the story is being told and why the story is being told. And I feel, you know, writers are, are the true Resources for their stories. They are able to provide that sense of understanding and that, you know, that sense of possibility for how a story can be pulled through a production. So I find myself in very close, close, a collaborative proximity with the writer’s and those processes with a Shakespeare with, you know, a, with a play with the writers, no longer living, they offer the invitation of a collaborative, a process of adaptation and translation with the Director and other dramaturgs and other creative team members involved.
So a, I will say that I do look at Shakespeare’s plays as if their, a new place I analyze them for their story. I analyze all elements of the storytelling in the same way that I analyze new plays, ah, and the same way that I reflect on new plays. But the key difference does that often is me and the Director. And sometimes the text and vocal director who are then responsible for determining what shift, what is maintained, what is the, the, what is the foundational arch of this story that his manifested in production, the beauty and the challenge, which Shakespeare is we have so much freedom in our contemporary world.
They have so much freedom with how Shakespeare can be adapted, transformed, translated, every element of, you know, of that process. We have such freedom. And so what I often find is within the freedom, how to mask the freedom with the forum, and I often will spend a good amount of my time. Dramaturgically unpacking the full story, unpacking the full story before after made any edits are made, but I find that to be a great process and what one exercise that I recently engaged with, with the incredible director of, because they do with balance as well as who directed a production of Macbeth that we had at the Festival last summer, the day of the week.
And I ended up having sessions with also a associate Dramaturgy while a bachelor Gord, where we would go scene by scene and then ask ourselves, what is the story within this scene? And from there, we’re able to determine what we actually wanted to cut or preserve or what words we wanted to change. And I absolutely loved that practice. I, you know, I feel that within Shakespeare plays, I typically am looking at the story from the full arc, from the entirety, but to actually go see in, by seen and treat and treat the plays, particularly Macbeth is a great example where you actually look at the episodic storytelling and consider the story within each.
And it was a, it was an incredible dramaturgical exercise. And so I continue to find myself in that great class of learning, how to best to collaborate with a director in, in, on Shakespeare. Because I feel like there are a variety of point of views that directors come in with. There are, you know, a broad spectrum of vision, a broad spectrum of production, aesthetics and possibilities. And then once the Director and I come up with whatever draft have a script, there is always Council from the actor’s.
And so we find herself, you know, similarly Ashley, to a process where we are developing world premiers is where the response to the actors allows us to also continue to change the script as we go. I
Love that you’re calling attention to the ways that, that those, those processes of bringing, bringing script’s to life, to be the old or new can be richly similar and can, and can call on the same imagination and creativity and Verve of the, sort of the creative minds and bodies involved. But also the way that both prep processes can be, you know, quite different and meaningful in their own. Right?
So Amrita, I am, I am fresh out of questions and we are fresh out of time. I am. So I’m so grateful to you for, for taking the time to sort of lend your voice in the insights to our podcast today. Thank you so much for joining us. Claire I’m thrilled to be part of the podcast. Thank you for having me. Thank you for your fantastic questions. I truly enjoyed talking to you today. Thank you. That’s our show for today.
You’ve been listening to the Sweet Tea Shakespeare Lunch Hours catch you next time.
Historical Background Information—The Winter’s Tale
By Dr. Susan Breitzer
This aspect of dramaturgy has posed a challenged, because technically this play reflects no actual
history, at least on the surface. Probing below the surface however, it is believed to be allegorical to the
second marriage of King Henry VIII of England to Anne Boleyn, or more to the point, its tragic ending. A
little historical background to that is in order.
The English Reformation was different from that of Continental Europe in that 1. It was a largely top-
down affair, legislated by the monarchy 2. It had very much to do with the personal life of King Henry
VIII. Henry VIII’s marital record is very well known to history, and much came down to producing a
male heir. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon had produced only one surviving child—a daughter, Mary.
Then as she aged, Henry genuinely developed the hots for her lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. So Henry
appealed to Rome for an annulment of his first marriage, on the retrospectively decided grounds of
Catherine’s being his brother Arthur’s widow, something that was apparently disallowed without a
dispensation (which they had gotten) The divorce suit, was hardly the most frivolous one to come forth
from or been granted to a monarch nonetheless threatened to undo the whole legitimacy of Papal
Dispensations. Plus at the time, Pope Clement VII was under the political thumb of Catherine’s nephew,
The pope therefore had little option but to dither and stall, allowing the suit to proceed in England for
the next two years, before suddenly announcing that it had to be brought to Rome anew. Henry, after
laying increasing pressure on the Pope, in 1531 compelled an assembly of English clergy to make him
“protector and only supreme head” of the Church in England. Then, in 1533, went ahead and married
the already pregnant Anne, without waiting for an annulment of his previous marriage. Then the child
was turned out to be a girl (the future Queen Elizabeth I), it must have seemed all for nothing—Henry
refused even to attend her christening. From there, things didn’t work out so well for Anne, after
subsequent failed efforts to give the king a son, ending with a miscarriage. Afterward, the king fell
in love with her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, his eventual third wife. Rather than attempt another
divorce, he had Anne imprisoned and executed on trumped-up charges of adultery with multiple
men—including a close friend of the king’s who refused to confess even to avoid execution. It has been
suggested then that Perdita was an allegorical presentation of Elizabeth, the unwanted daughter who
went on to be one of the greatest (if not greatest) English monarchs in history.
There are also historical circumstances surrounding some of the geographical oddities described in
the play. In The Winter’s Tale there are references to the “seacoast” and “desert” of the Kingdom of
Bohemia. If this Bohemia is the same the comprises most of the modern Czech Republic, this does not
make since, because this region has neither desert nor seacoast. But Bohemia in this context, may
refer to a much lager territory briefly ruled by Ottokar II of Bohemia that included the Adriatic coast,
making it theoretically possible to sail from Sicily to the “seacoast of Bohemia” during the period under
discussion. Other possibilitiesare that Bohemia was an alternate name for the region Apulia in Sicily or
misspelling of Bithynia in Asia Minor. The most likely theory is that Shakespeare, when adapting the
novella Pandosto, in which King Pandosto of Bohemia was the one who suspected his wife of being
unfaithful with his best friend, the King of Sicily, Shakespeare chose to reverse the locations of the
two characters. This was because of King James II’s alliance with Rudolph II, the King of Bohemia (and
the Holy Roman Emperor!)at the time of the play was first performed—also making it possible for the
play to be performed in honor of the marriage of James’s daughter Elizabeth to the crown prince of
Bohemia! There are also other explanations for this and other geographic improbabilities that will be
discussed in a separate literary history of the play.
Beyond Bohemia, there is also the question of why Shakespeare located the Oracle of Delphi on an
island, when Delphi (ancient and modern) is located in the mountains in Central Greece. Rather, this
seeming relocation of the Oracle to the island of Delos (known in Shakespeare’s time as Delphos) is
lifted straight from Pandosto, whose author in turn refers Virgil’s Aeneid.