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Wernig lives the Life of a Dramaturg

All teachers have amazing hidden talents and hobbies. While some enjoy gardening and others are great musicians, English teacher, Amy Wernig, is a dramaturg.

“”I’m a dramaturg, a theatre artist who works with playwrights to help them craft their plays,” said Wernig, “I absolutely love the collaborative process of dramaturgy; dramaturgs work with playwrights, directors, actors, and designers, and they often interact with audiences when they moderate talkbacks and other audience-engagement activities during the run of a show. When working on new plays, I get to be a part of the play-making process from the very beginning to the very end–from the origin of the first draft of the script all the way through to the opening night production. It’s a lot like watching and helping a child grow from a baby into a full-fledged adult.”

Dramaturgs assist playwrights and help develop amazing pieces of literature. What’s more, dramaturgs also act as literary advisers or editors in a theatre, opera or film company. They  consults with authors, and do things such as research and interpret scripts, or help others with these tasks.

“There are two types of dramaturgy: production dramaturgy and new-play dramaturgy. Production dramaturgs help to breathe life into the world of a play during the rehearsal process through contextual research and text analysis. New-play dramaturgs work with playwrights to help them shape the structure and style of their plays during the drafting process. So, essentially, when working with a playwright on a new play, the dramaturg serves as a collaborative editor,” said Wernig.

Wernig was first introduced to dramaturgy by a fellow friend who worked as a lighting designer for a production. She automatically fell in love with the idea of helping gather and contextualize world-of-the-play research. She looked into graduate dramaturgy programs, and ended up pursuing a master’s Degree in Theatre History and Criticism at Ohio University. She did an internship at a professional theatre, which lead to her becoming Alley Theatre’s full-time dramaturg.

“Working as a dramaturg has taught me to be a more open-minded and big-hearted person. Every person’s story has value, and every person’s story is important. It’s essential that we listen to each story with compassion and grace,” said Wernig.

Wernig enjoys plays that “push the boundaries of what we consider a play” and play around with different storytelling forms and formats. She likes plays that keep her wondering and thinking even after she leaves the theatre.

“I’m a huge fan of social-justice stories and plays — and my favorite play is The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. It’s a play that investigates the nature of storytelling and how it’s an inherent part of human nature,” said Wernig.

As an English teacher, an immense amount of  grading and educating comes with her job. She still finds time to express her interest in what she loves. She can always find time to work on plays, because it is one of her strongest passions.

“Time management is my best friend. I do my absolute best to maximize every second I have during the school day to take care of school business so I have time in the evenings and on the weekends for my freelance dramaturgy work,” said Wernig

For students interested in being a dramaturg or pursuing a career similar to Wernig’s, the best advice she can give is to work hard and try to expand your reach. Being involved in school and community productions can help you gain connections and pursue the path you want to follow in the future.

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