April 27, 2012

“What You Will”: A Dramaturgical Study of Twelfth Night for Use in Theatrical Production

Anna Smithberger, Advisor: Jeff Turner

Theatre is a highly collaborative process, with dozens of people working to create each production, but many companies overlook the usefulness of a dramaturg in the creative process. Without this scholar in residence who is both theoretically informed and theatrically constructive, the production can suffer from easily fixed problems, such as historical accuracy of design elements or editing mishaps. Working to improve the production through knowledge of both literature and history, dramaturgs use research as a means of creating art. Beyond merely informing the creation of a production, the research shapes the dramatic work. As such, this project functions as a practical dramaturgical study of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, focusing on both literary and historical research, and its application to a theatrical production. Shakespeare's work lends itself well to dramaturgical research because of its historical and literary merit, making it ideal for a beginning dramaturg, while also offering multiple opportunities for strong critical thinking and analysis. Twelfth Night in particular has myriad interpretations that lead to interesting creative challenges in production and require in-depth dramaturgical study in order to orchestrate an effective presentation of the play. Consisting of a detailed script analysis that justifies a new editing of the script, a production history spanning Twelfth Night’s 400 years while focusing on more recent productions, and a discussion with critical analyses of the play that inform the production, this project brings forth a specific approach for the creation of a new theatrical presentation. At its core, this project is a professional learning experience and the practical application of dramaturgy for Twelfth Night.