THE ROYALE - The Lobby

Lobby displays are a major part of our Integrated Dramaturgy work because a good display levels the playing field for our audiences.  By providing historical facts or biographical information about our playwrights, each display ensures that everyone walks into the house with the same level of education and context about the script, regardless of their circumstances outside of our theater. 

But rather than each display being just informational and didactic, Kitchen Dog puts an emphasis on making sure our displays are also interactive.  The way an audience member interacts with our displays will change based on the needs of each show - sometimes you can touch, write on, or connect to social media on our displays - but the one constant is that we try to ensure our displays interact with each audience member's empathy and personal experiences.  We want our displays to ask questions of our audiences, and help them draw connections between our shows, our city, and our world.  

For THE ROYALE lobby, I wanted to emphasize the burdens Jay Jackson carries into the ring - every time he boxes, he's not only fighting for glory, but he is fighting the outside pressures of systemic oppression, violent threats, and negative media attention.  The display, "HEAVY WEIGHT. CHAMPION." displayed this tension by physically putting our audience members in the corner of an abstract boxing ring. I used two flats for the two sides of the ring, and displayed photos and text in lines to create the "ropes" on either side.  In order for our audience members to look at the featured items posted on the "ring", they had to stand in the center, surrounded by the information on all sides, the way Jay might be. 

But, I was also inspired by playwright Marco Ramirez's quote about Jay: "The lead character is as much Jack Johnson as he is Jay-Z.  He’s bombastic… he will be remembered - whether the establishment likes it or not."  I wanted our audiences to recognize Jay's struggle, though depicted in 1905, as a struggle that is equally pertinent for modern Black moguls. 

So, our display also set up a visual comparison between Jay's Jim Crow America and our current world.  The left side of the ring featured photos of historic Black icons, a timeline of racist legislation, and quotes by the real-life inspiration for the play's main character, Jack Johnson.  The right side featured modern Black icons, a row of headlines attempting to tear down their successes, and modern quotes about their attempts to take the roles in society that are rightfully theirs. 

The display was a lot of work, and math (ugh), and sticky tack, but the conversations held in our lobby made it all worth it.  Sad to see such a wonderful show close, but can't wait to get started on the next one. Check out photos of THE ROYALE's display below!

 THE FULL DISPLAY

THE FULL DISPLAY

 THE LEFT SIDE OF THE DISPLAY - THE "HISTORY" SIDE

THE LEFT SIDE OF THE DISPLAY - THE "HISTORY" SIDE

 THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE DISPLAY - THE "CONTEMPORARY" SIDE.  TO THE RIGHT: A VIDEO OF THE "MEDIA HEADLINE" SECTION OF THIS BOARD

THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE DISPLAY - THE "CONTEMPORARY" SIDE. 
TO THE RIGHT: A VIDEO OF THE "MEDIA HEADLINE" SECTION OF THIS BOARD

What's Up?

Hi y'all!

Welcome to Kitchen Dog Theater's new blog, The Bly Blog. This blog exists to track and document our work on our recently awarded 2018 Bly Creative Capacity Grant, a grant given to us by the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas with the intent of expanding the boundaries of the field of dramaturgy.

I'm Haley Nelson, the co-recipient of that grant and thus the woman behind the blog. I've been at Kitchen Dog for a little over a year as the New Works Festival Co-Coordinator  (evaluating script submissions, managing other readers and their evaluations, and helping us stay on deadline) and the Lobby Display Dramaturg (designing all of the displays you see in our lobby during pre-show).  When I'm not at KDT, I'm working as the dramaturg for Dallas Theater Center's commission from playwright Kenny Finkle and on Artstillery's devised piece DIRTY TURK, teaching tiny tots a variety of subjects across the D-FW, or watching Documentary Now! (that Grey Gardens episode though!!). 

So that word has been thrown out here a few times now - "dramaturg."  What is that? Great question.  I think the easiest explanation for a dramaturg is "an advocate for words," and I say that because we have so, so many jobs.  The LMDA website outlines it pretty thoroughly here, but, to summarize, we work with theatrical words.  We outline a play's history so audiences better understand them, we help playwrights assemble them into new plays, we help directors get to the the bottom and heart and point of them,  and we promote them to people who can put them on stage.  We also - and this is at the heart of our grant project - try to get them out into the community, and get the community in to hear them, because we believe in their power to unite, change, educate and inspire the people around us. 

Our Bly Creative Capacity Grant is interested in reaffirming Kitchen Dog's mission of exploring and promoting social justice, community, and identity through theater by making sure our audiences are as diverse as our city.  We have some programs in place already to drive these goals forward, but our progress just isn't fast enough, or impactful enough, for our standards yet.  So, KDT has put me on the ground to figure out, quite simply,  how we can do better.  It'll take a lot of work, and a lot of failure, and questions, and gas mileage, and hard looks, but we are really excited to take on this challenge. 

We're doing it through what we're calling "Integrated Dramaturgy": using all of the principles of textual dramaturgy (an understanding of story, plot, action and character) and applying what we learn from our scripts to our community, trying to build bridges between the world of the play and our very real world here in Dallas. To do this, I'll be interviewing community leaders, building lobby displays, making surveys, getting on the ground and out into all corners of our massive city, and engaging with people who might need our stories most but might otherwise not have access to them and figuring out how to get them here!  We're hoping that in doing some of this legwork, we'll make some useful discoveries we can apply to our theater, and share with others in our community near and far. 

Wish us luck, and you're welcome to follow along.  If you think you have a way to help, or have a group that you feel needs to see one of our current productions, email me at Haley@kitchendogtheater.org. And if you see a silver station wagon zooming down your street, give me a friendly wave - I bet I'll see you around soon!