She is present throughout the play, but invisible to the audience. She is the playwright’s partner, but they’ve probably never met. She is an historian, a researcher, an explainer, a suggester. She illuminates possibilities. She is a dramaturg.
Dramaturgs are people who provide context and structure about a play for every member of a theater ensemble. While what they say may never be heard in an actor’s lines, or be written in a playbill, the information they provide informs choices throughout the production.
When the dramaturg shares her research with the ensemble, she is helping them to fully actualize the playwright’s voice, the director’s vision, and the actors’ performances. From her research, actors can imagine an autobiography for their characters and carry that narrative throughout the performance.
Emma Futhey, dramaturg for The Concord Players’ 2023 production of Little Women – the Musical has a formidable challenge: providing background and structure about a play from a book that was written by a real person, set in a real town that is heaped in history. Happily, she is well prepared with a doctorate in theater history and performance studies from Tufts University and she’s been doing dramaturgy for 15 years. Little Woman and Louisa May Alcott strongly influenced her dissertation.
“In my work, I examine performances of womanhood and gender, specifically in public spheres of influence like print culture and benevolent societies, and women like Louisa May Alcott figure prominently,” she says.“It’s so exciting to use my research on the show and to do it in Concord itself.”
Is the fact that Little Women was written by a real person who lived in Concord, and used real people as inspiration for her story present intimidating for a dramaturg? For some, maybe, but not for Futhey.
“ I love Little Women, she says. It was one of [my] first experiences of seeing ordinary middle-class young women as fully realized characters with flaws and opportunities for growth, as well as a capacity for generosity and love. For [this show] I highlighted women’s roles in society on the U.S. in the antebellum period, the Civil War, the publishing industry, and the Alcotts and their circle in Concord. I like to make handouts for the team and then I build a presentation with assistance from the director … I love finding fragments of history and lived experiences through my work.”
The Concord Players are making history of their own by producing, for the first time on the boards of 51 Walden, Little Women – the Musical.
Performances take place April 28, May 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 8 p.m., April 29 and May 6 at 7 p.m., April 30 and May 7 at 2 p.m. and May 13 at 4 p.m.. Tickets are $28 with reserved seating. Visit concordplayers.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 978-369-2990