Friday, November 12, 2010

The theory and practice of artistic relationships

Central to the dramatic writing program is Theatre Lab, a class that meets twice a week to practice collaboration between playwrights, directors, actors, and dramaturgs. Throughout the year, a shifting network of teams creates and presents a series of projects, including monologues commissioned by specific actors, ten-minute plays, a role-reversal exercise (in which directors write and writers direct), etc.

In parallel with this process, the playwrights, directors, and dramaturgs meet once a week to discuss how collaboration works, both in the Lab and in "real life." The latter is supported by a discussion of the seminal book Making Plays: The Writer-Director Relationship in the Theatre Today by Richard Nelson and David Jones, as well as by industry guests. This week we were lucky to be visited by artists with a history of working together. As in the Nelson/Jones book, there were times when director Daniella Topol (a CMU alumna) and playwright Willy Holtzman could have easily been talking about the other kind of relationship, not least in finding the right balance between discord and harmony.

Holtzman and Topol's latest collaboration, The Morini Strad, opens tonight at Pittsburgh's City Theatre.