Dramaturging the Phoenix

In April 2020, LMDA asked its members to contribute short essays to boldly inspire, provoke, and explore theatre’s potential to transform through global crisis. The Dramaturging the Phoenix challenge challenged writers to imagine the “radical dramaturgy” that will lead theatre and performance into the next year, decade, and century. What ideal theatre-making will heal the communities, nations, and the globe during the long recovery ahead? How can dramaturgical imagination and practices shape the theatrical phoenix that will rise?

The first round of responses – over 50 of them – were overwhelming. They are musings, manifestos, meditations, poems, song lyrics, calls to action, lesson plans for teaching dramaturgy during COVID-19, program notes without a show, recipes for the future, and eulogies for the dead.

They are views on dramaturgy from the floor, from a window, from a forest, from a narrow sidewalk and more. Views on classical literature and past plagues. Views from an audience on an unexpected closing night – and new views of what an audience means now. Views on silence and the meaningfulness of rest, and reminders that we need time and space to fuel the Imagination. Views on commercial and regional theatres – as well as what community theatre should mean.

What's in common is that dramaturgs don't want the same working conditions in theatre that we had before. There's a heartfelt, passionate desire for systemic change, and these essays imagned so many possibilities of what theatre could be and should be when we're allowed to gather again. What we received captures a moment in time and presents the voices of dramaturgs in process. 

We invite all LMDA members to read the collected essays here. (For access, make sure you're logged in and your membership is current.) Although it started as an April essay challenge, Dramaturging the Phoenix will remain open for contributions through 2020. We'd like to see the collection grow to at least 200 essays by Halloween, so we're asking each author to challenge two other dramaturgs to join the movement. Our unique experiences and visions, expressed in diverse essays, constitute an invaluable archive of dramaturgical thought and feeling in this paradigm-busting era. Please make your mark, and send your essay to freelance@lmda.org today!

The essays are merely the springboard for Dramaturging the Phoenix. The roundtable discussion of essay authors that kicked off LMDA's first virtual conference on June 19 was accessed by over 2000 people in 42 countries via HowlRound. Offers to publish essays have rolled in from Howlround, Page-By-Page, and The Flashpaper. As we pursue more opportunities for the work, we encourage authors to share their essays where they see fit.

Our Dramaturging the Phoenix Forum (Tuesdays at noon ET on Zoom) has been extended through 2020 as an essential community check-in as we face the challenges of past, present, and future together. The extension will allow us to feature a diverse rotation of essays and related projects for deeper discussion. Those unable to attend the Forums will be able to access a video archive of the Zoom sessions on the website. Upcoming speakers will be announced on the listserv and social media as they are confirmed.

Check out this week's featured essays:

The Case for Dramaturgical Leadership Post-COVID-19
by Alix Rosenfeld


Revolving & Evolving Theatre (with a little help from the Beatles)
by Kate Mulley


Playing with Fire: Connection and Creation in Times of Chaos
by Lindsay Phillips

To read the entire collection, join LMDA (or log in if you're already a member).

Read the Essays Watch the Forum

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