PTC’s Dramaturg Launch Pad: An Interview with María and Dom

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This year María Escolán, Dominique Wakeland and Evan Medd worked with mentors Heidi Taylor, David Geary, and guest artists for six months of artistic development in PTC’s Dramaturg Launch Pad (DLP) program. They dug deep into the craft of dramaturgy. We invited participants to talk about their experience in the DLP. Maria and Dom interviewed each other about the Dramaturg Launch Pad, theatre, holding each other accountable, and the joy of not knowing. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

 

María Escolán (she/her) is a queer emerging theatre artists from El Salvador, living on the unceded traditional Coast Salish Territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. A recent grad from SFU’s Theatre Performance BFA, her emerging practice involves collaborative devised theatre creation in an investigation of structural violence, myth, and desire with an emphasis on the dramaturgy of design elements, intensity, and rhythm. María seeks to work in new devised performance development as well as script-based works, bi-lingual Spanish and English creation, community-engaged/site specific works, and work with masks in interdisciplinary collaborative settings.

Dominique Wakeland/Dom (they/them) is a Black emerging theatre/drag artist living on the Unceded territories of the Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo Nations. Their emerging practice is a mix of neo-cabaret consultation and being as aggressively queer as possible in every room they’re in. Dom seeks out work in poetic text, devised performance and community invigoration. In drag, they challenge audience expectations as Mx. Bukuru and are the founder of an all Black drag house. They are constantly looking for children… Stay tuned for Black Brunch, post COVID.

 

We’re Recording!

Okay, Dom here we go! How excited are you about dramaturgy in your life right now on a scale from one to ten?

Definitely an eight, actually.

Describe your dramaturgy practice in a hashtag.

#pleasedobetter

If your dramaturgical practice was gonna be advertised on a marquee, what would it say?

Come and be confused, leave with no real answers!

What’s one thing people don’t know about your dramaturgy practice?

That I stress a lot about it. So much, massive imposter over here. So much.

What’s your dramaturgy ritual?

Read it, or experience it, chew on it, have a cup of juice, and write about it only when I’m full.

What is your favourite moment in the dramaturgical cycle?

The second time you get coffee with someone as they’re trying to approach you to work on a project, and you’re starting to know who they are as a person, and whether or not you’ll actually have the stamina to work with them on a project.

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve had in dramaturgy?

I think, how much I love it. That I am always surprised when I find a paper that I enjoy reading. Because so much of my academia experience is not joyful, and very white.

Okay, last one for right now. Vintage or new? Take that however you want.

Vintage. Okay, María, it’s your turn.

Ahhh

Who is your dramaturgical style icon?

I’d say Heidi Taylor.

We all say Heidi Taylor. 

What are three things that are essential to a process for you?

Kindness, dancing, and laughter.

What is the one thing that you haven’t tried yet but that you’re really excited to bring into a process?

Intimacy.

Going into making something, what is your biggest fear?

That I’m gonna do a bad job.

(laughter)

 

As part of their work with the DLP, participants each brought to the group a current project they were working on as case studies for dramaturgical discussion and reflection. Evan brought in Geoffrey Simon Brown’s Night, a play that explores anxiety, claustrophobia, and addiction through the eyes of someone who is convinced they are turning into a wolf. María brought her own piece La Quebrada, which explores state violence and forced migration within a Salvadoran/Central American context through dynamic titling, translation, projection and video editing. Dom brought Yellow, a video project exploring concepts of rest within the Black community, utilizing projection, poetry and the work of Liz Johnson Artur.

María Escolán back & face profile: medium length black curly hair, black sleeveless top, holding a ceramic jar on her head with both arms

La Quebrada, rice & beans theatre DBLSPK workshop – María Escolán. Photo by Darylina Powderface

Performer in long sleeve yellow crop top, yellow head scarf, blue and white face mask with black and white wall projections to their side

Yellow, created in partnership with The HATCH art gallery – Samuel Wakeland. Photo by Dominique Wakeland

Okay, favourite trash television that you are ashamed to admit you like but you’re not ashamed?

I think it’s just watching celebrity Youtube videos.

Okay, love that. How would you define your dramaturgical practice in three words?

Process-based. Relationship-based.

I see your hyphens!

Product-prioritizing!

What is inspiring you in art right now?

I’m loving the stuff that I’m seeing in El Salvador, like in film and theatre there’s a boom that’s happening. So I’m excited about that.

What is the best piece of dramaturgical advice that you’ve received?

David’s ‘you’re not always gonna be a friend as a dramaturg’, and Heidi’s ‘nurturing the no’, that kind of thing where disagreement and conflict are generative and productive and real and respectful.

Yeah, that, like, generative talk is something that I’m just always repeating to myself, that you don’t want to work with people that you can’t assert boundaries with, you know. Conflict is important.

Yeah or that we can’t disagree and get, like, passionate about it, but still respect and care about each other.

Yeah, and for me what was so important and so great about the Dramaturg Launchpad is that there were all these people holding me accountable to do research and to come and talk about it. And especially during the pandemic, having any recurring events was powerful and important to me. Creating new community with my mentors, Dainty Smith and Phaedra Scott Carpenter was incredibly special.

Oh, for me too, having this project was such a bright light, especially with my amazing mentors Beatriz Pizano, Mercedes Bátis-Benét, and Marina Szijarto! Big thank you to them!

Yeah, it was great to come together once a week and chat about Decolonial story structure, process design, etc.

And our individual research pieces like site-specific performance, community engaged theatre, devising, ritual, Latinx dramaturgies, Reality TV, film, and more.

There’s also the joy of not knowing.

Yes! This is an emerging practice for me and that was kind of part of our process, there was a general holding of not knowing. Of working and creating together as we go.

Maria before we end, what is your favourite smell?

I’m thinking rose and lavender. And Dom, drugstore makeup or designer?

Drugstore – they’ve really stepped up their game!

Thank you.

 

End note

Dom:bold, Maria:italics

 

Theatre is community. At least the theatre I want to participate in/create is. Participating in the DLP through a terribly solitary part of my life was a bright light! Thank you to Heidi and David and to cohort members Dom, Evan, and Maria. We held space for each other. 

 

If you’re making Black/Latinx art, hire us. If it’s not Black/Lantinx, hire us too.

Maria’s image:
María Escolán back & face profile: medium length black curly hair, black sleeveless top, holding a ceramic jar on her head with both arms.
Dom’s image:
Performer in long sleeve yellow crop top, yellow head scarf, blue and white face mask with black and white wall projections to their side.