Reflections by Olivia Vong

26 August 2015, on Phase 1 of the Dramaturg Apprenticeship Programme under The Garage:

“Phase 1 of The Garage, has been fulfilling thus far –despite my initial trepidation of coming into this programme as one of the youngest, and possibly most inexperienced. A large part of my initial ‘fear’ – if one could call it that – was the lack of industry knowledge perhaps, and lack of experience. I had, at that point, a vague sense of what dramaturgy was, and was intrigued perhaps by the opportunity I had to concretise this indistinct notion into a practice.

The first phase was divided into 2 parts – 2 research projects, preceded by some instruction regarding dramaturgical practices, and a fairly substantial number of readings on the basic theoretical foundations in dramaturgy. The readings largely gave me a greater awareness to the skills that I’ve intuitively cultivated when working on productions, and brought to the fore how these skills could also be better applied. The application bit, therefore was manifest in the two research projects we were given – the first, a monologue from the Singapore theatre canon, and the second, a classical naturalist piece by Chekhov.

Dramaturgy is a contentious practice, this, I soon realised as I delved into the readings. The metaphor that remained with me, which helped to resolve the fuzzy definition of dramaturgy I had, was one that likened a dramaturg in the theatre to one responsible for the architecture of the entire production. It is very much about seeing the bigger picture, the context, the narrative strategies, and the forms that exist outside of the frame of the production, or even the institution.

The first assignment was not too hard, although I had difficulty in communicating with the playwright and obtaining the actual script of the show I was working on. Yet, I faced considerable challenges in the second project – yet I thought that it was apt in the fact that it forced me out of my comfort zone – especially with having to deal with possibilities and translations, and with a ‘classical’ text. It made me more aware of my artistic inclinations as well as shortcomings.

These experiences in Phase 1 have helped me to grow in confidence especially with regard to my research capacities, as well as, the type of dramaturgy work I am inclined towards. I am also aware, that as I embark on the next phase of this apprenticeship, that it allow me to negotiate and apply myself to ‘living-breathing’ production –something that both intimidates and excites me.”

~ Olivia Vong, Dramaturg Apprentice 2015