During the Humana Fest’s industry weekend – the final one – it’s not just normal audience members, critics, other actors, directors and agents in the audience. There are also dramaturgs and literary managers, those behind-the-scenes theatre people who, in certain companies, help set the seasons and within the seasons, help directors and actors know just what the hell it is they’re doing with a play.
One such dramaturg/literary director is Julie Felise Dubiner. She serves as the associate director of American Revolutions: The U.S. History Cycle at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (For more on that cycle, see this 2010 story about Alison Carey, who directs the cycle and is now Dubiner’s boss.)
Dubiner was on staff at Actors Theatre for six seasons, with what she calls a variety of titles; her final title at ATL was resident dramaturg before she moved to Ashland and the OSF.
Answering our defining Engine 31 question was hard for her, she said, because she’s a dramaturg and by definition is used to asking more and more questions in order to help define terms.
So, how do you define success for a new play?
I think it’s a really hard question to answer. On one level, it’s a success if it goes onto multiple productions. On the other hand, it’s a success if nobody dies. It’s also a success in the festival world, more here at a “real” festival than at OSF, if it’s, did you have a good time? Did you get what you [as a playwright] needed? Did everyone have a fun collaboration that maybe they want to do again?
At the Humana Festival in particular, it happens a lot that the plays are not critic-proof. For us, the litearary staff and artistic directors who come, we come in expeting to learn something about a writer, not just to love a play. Even if you didn’t love a play, you learn something about the writers. Like Jonathan Josephson is probably going to have a commission out of his 10-minute play. Or, I didn’t know Jeff Augustin [playwright, Cry Old Kingdom] before except through a friend. Now I know Jeff as a dramaturg, it doesn’t matter whether I like a play, I like his voice – and he’s a very sweet man, which is not nothing in this world.