I began my tenure as chair of the 2022 Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) Conference during the early days of COVID. This was back when we thought we would have a vaccine in six months. That did not happen. As more live performances were cancelled, city streets became empty wastelands, and as spring dragged into summer, COVID gave us an opportunity to pause our activities and reflect on our processes. After talking to our members across the dramaturgical spectrum, we found that they prioritized access, rigorous conversation, and introduction to new practices. In addition, our members who do not identify specifically as dramaturgs but as artists who use dramaturgy in their practice wanted to have an opportunity to share more of their work.
So we decided to shape the 2022 conference around the theme “Performance Outside the Proscenium,” because while the dramaturg is often considered primarily a position in traditional, regional theatres, in reality dramaturgical work spans the entire universe of performance. We wanted to shake up and redefine the idea of what dramaturgy is, and can be, in today’s creative communities. While the majority of our activities would occur online, we did want to offer an in-person component to those who were ready to meet again. So we spent three days in July together enjoying Old City Philadelphia, creating and watching performances and sharing practice.
Our conference asked participants to examine how space impacts the dramaturgy of the work, and how work lives, breathes, and evolves in different locations. For example, there were discussions regarding digital theatre, touring shows, cabaret, circus, online performance, outdoor theatre, site-specific work, burlesque, museum performance, installation performance, and more. The in-person conference hosted participants from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and the U.K., while the digital conference spanned the globe including featured speakers from India, Pakistan, and Australia.
We were thrilled to see that artists, producers, and thought leaders were eager to engage and push the boundaries of what they consider to be the role of the dramaturg on the creative team and dramaturgy in general. LMDA left the conference with action steps to take to forward the field, and participants left with new friends, colleagues, ideas, and an enormous amount of Philly swag.
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