From the Dramaturg

We are fortunate at the Main Street Stage to have had a dramaturg for our past two Shakespeare productions.  He is also a major contributor/planner/co-conspirator of the Redroom.  Here are some of his thoughts as he begins his research for Twelfth Night.

My mouse-clicking finger rapidly cramping up, I clicked on a link headlined “Shakespeare’s Songbook.”  I wasn’t expecting much by now and had resigned myself to the fact that there was absolutely no authoritative source to be found regarding my current research.  The page loading, my glazed-over eyes rapidly refocused.  Could it be . . . yes!  Yes it was.  A line of quarter and eighth notes, specifying the tune to “I Am Gone, Sir,” a verse sung by the fool at the end of Act Four Scene two in Twelfth Night.
Such is at least part of the day-to-day life of a dramaturg.
Tasked with verifying authenticity and researching social and cultural developments during the period in which a play is set (pretty much anything from “how low were hemlines” to “who was invading whom”) dramaturging a Shakespeare piece is a particularly daunting task.  For one thing, virtually every word the Bard set down has both a literal and subtle meaning.  The word “blaze” might not just mean “really really bright light,” but can also mean “his coat of arms.”  For another thing, the timelessness of Shakespeare’s plays makes them applicable to virtually any time and place.  The average dramaturg might find him or herself researching turn-of-the-century Sicily, 1960s Brooklyn, 25th century Botswana, or any time in between.  Worst (or best, depending on your point of view) of all, sometimes there is no hard and fast answer.  “I Am Gone, Sir” has a generally accepted melody, but no verifiable source exists as to what the original, Elizabethan melody might have been.  Most famously, the eternal question of what Shakespeare intended by having characters speak in prose versus verse has a general consensus, but is still open to debate.

Still and all, I get to be a professional nerd.  Which is always fun.

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