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On the occasion of our 25th anniversary, Literary Managers & Dramaturgs of the Americas devoted 2010 to remembering. And commemorating. And visioning. Over the past several months, we posted online a series of recollections about our history, our founding artists, and our accomplishments in that quarter of a century—reiterated in the narrative below. We hope that these posts have shed some light and have stirred some fond memories.
And so we begin.
The year was 1984. In January, Apple introduced its Macintosh personal computer. In October, Bishop Desmond Tutu’s Nobel Peace Prize was announced. In November, “Band-Aid” recorded its first charitable hit.
In December, Cynthia Jenner, Alexis Greene, and Thomas Dunn laid the framework for a not-for-profit theatre organization in a letter to the Jerome Foundation. Along with a host of colleagues, they envisioned a dramaturgy and literary management support program, soon to be incorporated, that would include in its mission publishing a quarterly newsletter; providing a computerized information bank (including a dramaturgy bibliography and a list of academic programs and courses to support the field); establishing an intern program; and creating a committee to begin a series of conferences. Prior to that document’s generation and submission, as former LMDA President David Copelin has noted, “dramaturgs in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area had been meeting informally once a month, usually for lunch. . . . We often spoke (sighed, actually), about creating a national, formal organization of ‘turgs.”
New Dramatists generously donated office space and the use of its New York City facilities. On March 26th, 1985, LMDA was incorporated with directors Thomas G. Dunn, Susan Gregg, and Bonnie Marranca officially at the helm. That November, a national conference was sponsored by the newly formed LMDA and collaborators at Hunter College, assisted by a grant from the Arthur Foundation. (Notably, this first $1,000 grant was not awarded to a dramaturg but to playwright Sheldon Rosen, who authored a short play for a workshop at the conference.) Des McAnuff gave the keynote address, which was published in American Theatre and what was then called the LMDA Newsletter (1.1, January 1986).
In August of 1986, the first “official annual” LMDA conference was held at New Dramatists, an organization that would continue to be a much appreciated friend. That year the second issue of Yale Theater to be devoted to dramaturgy was edited by member Mark Bly. (The first was edited by Joel Schechter in 1978.) In 1988, Michael Devine and DD Kugler became the first Canadian members of LMDA, and Kugler would later become the first Canadian officer (Vice-President, Communicationand later LMDA President). LMDA Canada (established 1997), under the long-term leadership of Brian Quirt (later LMDA President) and currently Vicki Stroich (also 2010 Conference Chair), has achieved the distinct status of existing as both a strong national unit and a vital and integral partner in the umbrella organization Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.