Foraging in the Forest: Student Projects at Drew, Emily Dzioba

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By: Nina Campli, Assistant Editor of Student Life and Arts

You may have heard about Emily Dzioba (‘18) because of her many successes in the theatre department, the most recent being Heathers: the Musical, which she directed. Now it is her last semester here at Drew and she is currently working on her honors thesis.

Her thesis focuses on devised theater, which is theatre created with a group of collaborators where people take on multiple roles in creating a theatrical work. In addition, she is also focusing on dramaturgy which deals with script development, cohesive realization of a play in production and audience engagement. “Without going into too much detail, I am looking at the role that a ‘formal’ dramaturg can serve in the creative process of devised shows. Where does one objective artist exist in that kind of rehearsal room?” Dzioba added, “By looking at one specific devised theatre company, Tectonic, I’m researching the role of dramaturgy in their collective collaboration and its effectiveness in creating ‘meaningful’ material.” She also wants to examine the nature of creating process-oriented, rather than product-oriented, theatre.

Dzioba said that although she has been in multiple roles in theatre department here at Drew she has a soft spot for dramaturgy. She describes it as, “essentially working to preserve the integrity of the script and authorial intent in production, as well as making the material accessible to the audience (as well as the other artists in the room).” The New York Semester on Theatre has a residency with Tectonic Theatre Project, and they are doing a devised piece as a part of the New York Semester. Dzioba is currently serving as the dramaturg of the show which made her wonder how other companies like Tectonic Theatre Company treated people in her position. She wanted to know if they used dramaturgs and who was considered a dramaturg since everyone worked on the piece collectively. She then said, “I specifically decided to turn my focus to Tectonic, a successful devising company. How have they had dramaturgs work within their processes? How have their pieces been in creating new, dynamic ways of telling stories? What are the benefits of having one person to take a step back, and make sure it’s clear and engaging?”

As far as the research, she has done a lot of reading. However, Dzioba stated, “I’ve had the incredible experience of making original work. It’s the equivalent of tinkering away in a lab on an experiment… It’s been incredible to not only research the company and dramaturgy on paper, but to put it into practice on a piece that we’re making.” She also mentioned that working with Tectonic in the fall as well as this current semester has allowed her to learn a different devising method and to see what her role as a dramaturg is in a non-traditional production.

In the future, Dzioba mentions wanting to do more work and research in devised theater saying, “Because it’s considered an emerging discipline of study, there isn’t much research on devised theatre. However, it’s a hot topic!” She also talked about wanting to continue her research in dramaturgy because not many people outside the theatre community know about its role in theatre. She finished with, “If nothing else, this project has given me a deep love for collective collaboration, and this is the type of work I want to be a part of more in the future.”


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