Systemic Dramaturgy: A Handbook for the Digital Age (Theater in the Americas)

De (autor) , Cuvânt înainte de Marianne Weems
Notă GoodReads:
en Limba Engleză Paperback – 17 Nov 2022
Working theatrically with technology 
Systemic Dramaturgy offers an invigorating, practical look at the daunting cultural problems of the digital age as they relate to performance. Authors Michael Mark Chemers and Mike Sell reject the incompatibility of theatre with robots, digital media, or video games. Instead, they argue that technology is the original problem of theatre: How can we tell this story and move this audience with these tools? And if we have different tools, how can that change the stories we tell?
This volume attunes readers to “systemic dramaturgy”—the recursive elements of signification, innovation, and history that underlie all performance—arguing that theatre must be understood as a system of systems, a concatenation of people, places, things, politics, feelings, and interpretations, ideally working together to entertain and edify an audience. The authors discuss in-depth the application of time-tested dramaturgical skills to extra-theatrical endeavors, including multi-platform performance, installations, and videogames. And they identify the unique interventions that dramaturgs can and must make into these art forms.
More than any other book that has been published in the field, Systemic Dramaturgy places historical dramaturgy in conversation with technologies as old as the deus ex machina and as new as artificial intelligence. Spirited and playful in its approach, this volume collates histories, transcripts, and case studies and applies the concepts of systemic dramaturgy to works both old and avant-garde. Between chapters, Chemers and Sell talk with with some of the most forward-thinking, innovative, and creative people working in live media as they share their diverse approaches to the challenges of making performances, games, and digital media that move both heart and mind. This volume is nothing less than a guide for thinking about the future evolution of performance.
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ISBN-13: 9780809338313
ISBN-10: 0809338319
Pagini: 290
Ilustrații: 17
Dimensiuni: 156 x 235 x 17 mm
Greutate: 0.06 kg
Ediția: 1st Edition
Editura: Southern Illinois University Press
Colecția Southern Illinois University Press
Seria Theater in the Americas

Notă biografică

Michael Mark Chemers, professor of dramatic literature at the University of California Santa Cruz,  is the author of Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy and Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show. He was the founding director of the bachelor of fine arts in dramaturgy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mike Sell, professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and member of the Graduate Program in Literature and Criticism, is author of The Avant-Garde: Race Religion War and editor of Playwriting in the 1960s: Decades of American Drama, among other publications. He is the founder of the Digital Storygame Project, which supports Pennsylvania public-school teachers in the integration of digital game design and creative writing. 



Introduction: Thinking and Making Systemically
The Technological Dramaturg
Imagine the following scenarios:
You’re graduating next semester with your dramaturgy specialization. You’ve worked hard for the last three years, taking courses in the history of theater, script analysis, set design and construction, and acting. The school’s production of The Master Builder, which you dramaturged, received a rave review from the reviewer at the Post-Gazette--and she usually doesn’t attend university productions! But you’re facing a dilemma. Your other passion is videogames. You’ve played them since you can remember. And you’ve been taking videogame design courses, organized a couple of game jams, even attended the annual Game Developers Conference a couple of times. So, what’s it going to be? Is there even a career path for someone like you?

During a board meeting to discuss next year’s season, your managing director announces that she’s been approached by a well-known tech manufacturer who wants to donate a not insignificant amount of money to your company. Great news! But there’s a catch. You have to use the company’s infrared sensors and proprietary software in at least two productions. The Artistic Director leans over and whispers sorrowfully, “I guess that means The Inspector General is off the table.”

While preparing the syllabus for a contemporary theater course, you learn that The Builders Association will be performing their latest production at a local theater. You’d love to bring your students to see this legendary company, but your expertise is in traditional script-based, realistic theater. The kind of experimental, process-based, multi-media work that the Builders Association does is unfamiliar, even a bit frightening to you. But you can’t possibly pass up this opportunity, can you? So, you sit down with your laptop and start Googling “technology and performance.” You quickly grow confused and overwhelmed.

Each of these scenarios presents different professional, creative, imaginative, and personal challenges. Each presents different dramaturgical challenges. The first concerns how we integrate cutting-edge technology into what we make without harming our commitment to the time-tested texts we love and the soulful, beautiful art that matters to us and our creative communities. The second concerns how we can build on what we know as theater historians, performance theorists, and script analysts to educate ourselves and others about the amazing things that artists are doing today with digital technology and social media. And the third concerns the ways we can use our understanding of how actors create roles, how audiences see and hear, and how scripts and stage communicate values to be knowledgeable, critically minded people in a world of pervasive social media and digital entertainment. But regardless of the challenge, a smart, flexible, systems-conscious dramaturg should be able to win the day.

We’ve written this book to empower the technology-curious dramaturg--whether they’ve been in the business for years or are just learning the ropes--to understand the special requirements of the digital era. But we’ve also written this book to encourage the technology-savvy code-master to make the leap into the pre-digital theatrical past. We would argue that the challenges and opportunities posed by digital lighting consoles or intermedia platforms aren’t fundamentally different than those posed to the Renaissance stage designer by tallow candles; or, at the very least, we feel it’s worth considering what these technologies have in common. Whether candlelight or LED, what matters is that the stage is lit and that it is lit in a way that makes the audience’s experience moving and memorable. Regardless of its particular technical capacities, the question of technology in the theater is a question of perception, understanding, and feeling; what matters is that the impact of those technologies on perception, understanding, and feeling is thoroughly understood before they’re implemented. Do we deny that the emergent technologies of our moment are creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities for directors, designers, actors, and audiences? Of course not. But we feel that those challenges can be best approached by positioning them within a broader cultural, historical, and practical framework. Ultimately, we’ve written this book to empower dramaturgs, no matter what their attitude towards technology might be, to apply their dramaturgical knowledge in innovative ways. We wrote this book so that dramaturgs may use their skills as script analysts, creative collaborators, askers of questions and solvers of problems to think and use technology in ways that are critically minded and creatively focused no matter where they find themselves, in the theater or out. 

In some ways we see this book as a sequel to Chemers’ Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy, and we are just as committed in these pages to effective dramaturgical practice, but we emphasize here the philosophical and analytic. After all, the first step towards successful making is successful thinking. You won’t find in these pages a five-step guide to installing hanging mics or synchronizing actor movements to procedurally generated images. But you will find chapters that explore the historical, conceptual, and ethical dimensions of play and empathy considered in a digital world; that investigate different ways of thinking about the relationship of live performance, audience experience, and theater technology; and that provide practical advice for those who want to try the tools of dramaturgy with other performance-based media, such as videogames. We’ll show you how to apply the concepts of systemic dramaturgy to dramatic works both old and time-tested and new and paradigm-shattering. And we’ll allow you to sit in on our conversations with some of the most forward-thinking, innovative, and creative people working in live media today. 

In sum, this is a handbook for thinking theatrically about technology. This book is a guide to how a traditionally trained dramaturg (one, for instance, who has absorbed the lessons of Ghost Light) can think about technology, whether the newest of the new or the antique and time-tested. We believe that thinking well about technology can empower dramaturgs to do better the work they have always done and to do new kinds of work beyond the conventional dramaturgical haunts of the library, the rehearsal room, and the stage. What you hold in your hands is a guide for thinking about the future evolution of performance. 

Because of the remarkable ways that dramaturgs think about performance (what Geoff Proehl has described as “the dramaturgical sensibility”), we are in an exceptional position when it comes to understanding how these factors intertwine.  Depending on the needs of a given production, a dramaturg might be a historian, an aesthetic theorist, a critic, a useful gadfly, a practical problem-solver, a teacher, a carnival barker, or even a visionary. Dramaturgs are, regardless of the situation, both thinkers and makers – and, without a doubt, thinkers and makers whose curiosity leads us to places and problems that might not be on the radar of directors, designers, actors, and department chairs. That’s just what we do.

Not everyone is comfortable with that combination of conceptualization and fabrication. In his biography of Ludwig Tieck, Edwin Zeydel characterized the dramaturg as a “man of letters who rashly interferes in the business of theater.” We don’t consider ourselves rash (nor, of course, all “men”). The dramaturg’s perspective, as illustrated in Ghost Light, is that thinking about what theater is, was, and might be and actively working with a creative community to make this production in this space at this time for this audience are two sides of the same coin –inhaling and exhaling, if you will. Because we play so many roles and are concerned with so many aspects of theater generally and productions specifically, dramaturgs do what we do in a unique way, a way that is always conscious of vast networks of interlocking processes. Dramaturgs are systemic thinkers and makers

Thus, our concerns about how dramaturgs ought to respond to advances in new tech drives an approach we are calling systemic dramaturgy, which we consider as part of a wave of scholarship and creative practice that has dramatically expanded the very notion of dramaturgy, particularly how we understand the dramaturg in relationship to the dramatic text and theatrical production. The premise that theatre must be understood as a concatenation of people, places, things (scripts, props, structures, tools, specialized personnel, and so on), and processes (writing, casting, rehearsal, direction, design, publicity, and so on) that work together (hopefully!) in an organized fashion (hopefully!) to accomplish the goal of (particularly hopefully!) entertaining and edifying an audience. Theatre itself is an interlocking set of conceptual systems, too: interpretive systems, production systems, teaching systems, and research systems. The systemic dramaturg understands not only how these systems work but how they work together and how they work in concert with larger ongoing systems including aesthetic, political, and economic ones.

[end of excerpt]



List of Illustrations
List of Contributors

Introduction: Thinking and Making Systemically
Chapter 1. Sokyokuchi
INTERLUDE 1. Kill Your Darlings: Marianne Weems on Collaboration and Devising
Chapter 2. Play
INTERLUDE 2. Play Matters: Elizabeth Swensen on Theatricality and Gaming
Chapter 3, Empathy 
INTERLUDE 3: Empathy for Whom? micha cárdenas on Activism and Digital Performance
Chapter 4: Towards a Dramaturgy of Video Games
INTERLUDE 4: SHTEAM: Noah Wardrip-Fruin on Storytelling in the Digital Age
Chapter 5: A Case Study of Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by Jennifer Haley
INTERLUDE 5: Generations: Jennifer Haley on the Theatre Game
Chapter 6. Systemic Dramaturgy Roundtable



“Refreshingly joyful in their embrace of the pleasures of gaming, without losing sight of the primary role of the audience and social identity, Michael Mark Chemers and Mike Sell celebrate the transferable skills of dramaturgy as well as its vital role in building empathy among spectators and consumers of digital media.”—Jane Barnette, author of Adapturgy: The Dramaturg’s Art and Theatrical Adaptation
Systemic Dramaturgy unpacks and explores the unique ways contemporary dramaturgy exists all around us. Everyone from theatre historians to video game streamers will cherish this essential guide to speaking about dramaturgy across the theatrical and virtual worlds where we all play.”—Peter Kuling, associate editor, International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media
“Chemers and Sell’s excellent and important new book—Systemic Dramaturgy: A Handbook for the Digital Age—speaks to anyone interested in the relationship between performance and technology. The authors argue—convincingly—that dramaturgy’s attention to the art of close reading, open-ended thinking, and artful questioning is absolutely essential to the future of theatre, new media, gaming, and digital performance. In turn, they issue two bold challenges to the field: first, for dramaturgs to readily bring their expertise in analytical thinking to ever-widening constellations (systems) of thought; second, and most importantly, for dramaturgs to apply their knowledge of history and the humanities across cultures to the transformation of fixed, oppositional binaries— machine/soul, head/heart, digital/authentic, technology/human embodiment—into dynamic, compassionate engines of play.”—Geoff Proehl, author of Toward a Dramaturgical Sensibility: Landscape and Journey with DD Kugler, Mark Lamos, and Michael Lupu