This piece is part of our Performing Arts Guide in the September 2022 print issue of District Fray. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Dramaturg at Shakespeare Theatre Company.
District Fray: How do dramaturgs create next-level shows?
Drew Lichtenberg: I’ve worked on about 50 shows over the last 10 years at STC, and more elsewhere as a freelancer. There are a handful that really stand out in my memory where I feel like my dramaturgy made a real contribution: Rebecca Taichman’s production of “The Winter’s Tale” in 2013, Yaël Farber’s award-winning “Salomé” in 2015, Whitney White’s production of “The Amen Corner” by James Baldwin in 2020 and Jade King Carroll’s production of “Red Velvet” by Lolita Chakrabarti this past season. In each instance, I was lucky enough to work with a director who treated me like a real collaborator — who welcomed me into the process and demanded honesty from me as well as support.
Is nerdiness a strength?
I’m proud to be a nerd. I think you have to be somewhat nerdy to be a dramaturg. Every different show offers a whole world of information, whether it be primary sources or secondary materials, such as criticism and reviews. I’m such a nerd that I have a tattoo on my arm of a utopian theater design by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus founder and architect. I got it when I finished my dissertation. I’ve told myself that when I finish my second book, I’m going to get another, but it has to be similarly well-referenced — and look cool, of course.
What’s the best Shakespeare plays for newcomers?
The obvious answer is to go back and re-read the ones that you think you know from junior high or high school, like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Read with a dictionary by your side (preferably the Oxford English Dictionary), like we do when we spend a week doing work. And read the scenes that always get cut. You’ll be surprised by what the words actually tell you. For example, did you know “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is not set during midsummer? And that Shakespeare appears to be referring to climate change?