Cole Wimpee acts, directs, and produces for the stage. His work has been in seen in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and at theatres across the country. He holds a BFA in Acting from Texas State University – San Marcos. In 2005, Wimpee received an Austin Critic’s Table Award for Rubber Repertory's Holes Before Bedtime. He is also a 2012 Lincoln Center Lab Alum.
What is a dramaturg? What role do you play in new play development?
Well, a dramaturg helps to answer questions - large and small - that are inherent in the world of the script. Research and analysis are the best friends of a dramaturg as they assist the director and the creative team in understanding references and background details that the play itself may not clearly elaborate on. In New Plays, a dramaturg can be helpful also in examining the structure of the play and giving insights into how the internal logic of the 'play machine' works or could work better.
What is the relationship between a dramaturg and a playwright and a dramaturg and a director look like?
The relationship varies from show-to-show, but ideally the dramaturg can operate in a triangular balance between a playwright and director as it pertains to new play development. Currently, I am working on a new play that has had some prior development and have been brought in specifically to aid in the Arkansas New Play Festival workshop production. This means that my role is in providing final research items and feedback as it is requested from the director and playwright who have already been previously engaged with this script for quite some time. Dramaturges are often employed, however for classical productions (i.e. Shakespeare) and since the playwright in those instances is dead, the relationship with the director, designer, and actors takes precedence.
How does working on a play in development compare to working on a published script?
It feels more raw and exciting, from my experience. A play 'in development' means that its collective creative team - including the writer - feel that there is more to work on with the script to craft the best possible story for a live audience. The most gifted writers will tell you that it isn't apparent to them that the play they wrote really works until they have an opportunity to put it into the words of actors. Often, more production resources enable further insights into positive changes that can be made on a script and so the fluidity and adaptability of the development process feels more electric (and sometimes unnerving!). It is all a part of trying to craft the best possible storytelling.
How do you think the Arkansas New Play Fest compares to other new play development workshops that you have been part of in the past?
There seems to be a more determined sense of quality and curation with Arkansas New Play Fest. I've participated and organized numerous new play festivals - and often they can be focused on quantity - in an effort to widen the tent to a large range of participants and potential new plays. As positive as those experiences have been for me personally, it is refreshing to see Arkansas New Play Fest keep a more discerning selection in their annual offerings. It allows them to team up guests artists who have traveled here from around the nation to collaborate - with local artists who represent the crème de la crème of Fayetteville's theatre community. Most importantly, it enables the festival to commit to presenting the best of its taste in new theatre for the public.
Why are development workshops important for new plays?How long have you been working on this script?
Not every play gets a development workshop. Not every play needs a development workshop. I professionally believe, however that every new play can benefit greatly from a workshop. It basically allows the writer to work out the kinks that may not be so obvious even in a staged reading format. Sometimes even the most talented playwrights need to see how dialogue and plot unfold outloud and in motion before they realize a change that can more clearly articulate what they are wanting to say in a script. Relative to the director and playwright, I've been brought in rather late in the process. I've had the script in hand for 2 weeks and am still finding rich areas to research. The grunt work is done for me, but now it is about carefully combing areas of interest that are the most helpful to the actors, director, and writer. I am very lucky to be working on a new play that I believe in, which of course is helpful to a dramaturg!
Where did the idea come from?
I'll use my dramaturgical instincts to help me with this question by researching: From Wikipedia: Its modern-day function was originated by the innovations of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an 18th-century German playwright, philosopher and theorist about theatre.
What is your goal for this particular workshop - what would you like to see happen with your script during the weeks of working on it here?
I would love to assist the writer, director and actors to come to a satisfying completion of the script. Every script is different just as every writer and process is different. Some playwrights will continue to revise their plays after initial publications. Others will go as far as they can through the development process until they are as satisfied as possible before moving on to a new story idea. All artists can identify with the notion that we work as long as we can through the deadline of a project. It is rare any of us are ever fully satisfied. It is the effort of the craft over time that sometimes makes the product powerful in its reach for perfection. My goal for this workshop is the same as Arkansas New Play Fest's over-arching goal: to help the writer bring this exciting new script to its fullest potentia