close

Faculty and Staff Email Login:

If your email account has not been moved to Google by I.T., then login here using Outlook Web Access:
webmail.cornish.edu/

If your email account has moved to Google by the I.T. Department, then login here:
mail.google.com


Hamill Attends LMDA

Hamill Attends LMDA

: Lexi Hamill. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Hamill Attends LMDA

: Lexi Hamill. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Hamill Attends LMDA

: Lexi Hamill. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Hamill Attends LMDA

: Lexi Hamill. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Prev · Next

The Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) met in Canada this summer; Cornish senior Lexi Hamill was there.

When people think about Cornish, they would probably be surprised to discover how much of the artists’ education is devoted to “bookish” pursuits. The fact is, intellectual work is going on at the College every day. For starters, all students study the history of their disciplines. Then there are some specialties within departments that require more in-depth work. For example, in the theater department, those who study directing need a more thorough-going grounding in history, literature and aesthetics than many of their contemporaries. A step further is taken by a select group of students within the theater department — “self-select,” in fact —who study dramaturgy. Alexandra Hamill (TH ’13) is one of these. She is just back from the annual conference of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) in Vancouver, B.C.

Alexandra, or Lexi to her friends, was at the LMDA as an “early career dramaturg.” She led a panel that examined the future of dramaturgy. Lexi has been a member of of the LMDA for one-and-a-half years.

“The conference was wildly informative and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much,” Hamill wrote to Cornish Dean of the College Jenifer Ward. “The panel that I served on, ‘Emerging Dramaturgs Envision the Future of Dramaturgy,’ was very successful. Two other early career dramaturgs and I crafted personal manifestos about how we imagine the future of dramaturgy and, after sharing these individual documents with the group we presented to, we all crafted a manifesto together.”

Hamill continued: “The manifestos from the panel are being added to the conference archive that LMDA is creating and I believe there are plans for them to be published in LMDA’s journal The Review.”

The field of dramaturgy is both highly specialized and takes place largely outside of the public eye, so people might not know much about it. A dramaturg is a professional engaged in a vital support role in the fabric of a theater company. He or she is there to provide research for productions, to be a disinterested eye a director can turn to for advice, or to operate as an organizing factor for the creation of a new play, helping the playwright to keep on track. As LMDA’s very name suggests, the connection of dramaturgy to literary management is a close one. A company’s literary manager is in charge of developing the repertoire, identifying and helping to select the plays and playwrights seen on stage during a season. Lately, dance companies have begun to employ dramaturgs as well.

Dramaturgy is not a program within the theater department at Cornish per se. According to Professor John Wilson, who teaches performance art: history & theory and theatre history and also oversees dramaturgy, the path of young dramaturgs at Cornish begins with freshman text analysis. As a small number of students confront problems in textual and critical studies and begin to apply them to their practical experiences in the art, they bit-by-bit gravitate towards the discipline. That is to say that the students who end up as dramaturgs don’t choose it so much as they discover it in themselves. “They recognize that they have already been doing it,” says Wilson, “and it’s been pleasurable — but without the vocabulary ’til now.”

“The serious study of dramaturgy at Cornish requires the same uncommon commitment, resilience and courage that is demanded of all the students at the College,” says Wilson. “To have met the challenges on the path of the scholar-artist that leads to the discipline of dramaturgy is an achievement of distinction.”

“It’s learning by fire,” says Lexi Hamill of the excitement of the free-form process of learning dramaturgy at Cornish as a scholar-artist, “It’s learning between the cracks. Your life is spent life filling in the pieces” The process of learning dramaturgy thus mirrors the everyday work of a dramaturg. The process is, to a great extent, the lesson.

Once a student like Hamill declares an intention to study dramaturgy, she embarks on a self-directed course of independent study with Wilson there to help. These students are attached to the various productions at Cornish throughout the year to hone their craft working with directors and casts to sharpen their awareness of what Wilson calls the “emergent production.” The production process can be stressful for the director and cast; student dramaturgs must learn to be patient, constantly aware of changes, informative and non-aggressive as they support the production to a successful opening.

Hamill is a native of Coatsville, PA, who spent her high school years in Las Vegas. After a year at Las Vegas Academy, she transferred to the College of Southern Nevada High School program.  Early on, she knew she wanted to be involved in the performing arts. She was involved both in competitive ballroom dancing and was enrolled in the college’s theater arts program. She graduated from the CSN program third in her class. As she approached graduation, Hamill, like most other high school seniors, was still up in the air about which direction to take. She applied to the University of Oklahoma’s musical theater program and to Cornish. The latter won out.

Once ensconced at Cornish, Hamill intended to study acting, but slowly, inexorably, she was drawn to dramaturgy. She cut her teeth as dramaturg for new work with The Chalk Boy, a script by a Cornish playwright now carving a name for himself in New York, Joshua Conkel [TH ’03]. She went on to work with a well established script, Maria Irene Fornés’ 1977 work, Fefu and Her Friends. .

Lexi Hamill will finish her career at Cornish in December, on the delivery of her senior thesis. Already she has been working outside the College as a dramaturg for dance at Velocity.


Recently

View Archive