When I explain to people that I am a writing tutor at the UCWbL, people often assume that I am an English or WRD major. Perhaps even Journalism or Creative Writing. People assume that I want to go into a career of editing or that I long to be a teacher. The truth is that I’m a theatre major.
As a Dramaturgy major, I get to experience a lot of different fields combined. Sometimes I take a more literary approach, and other days it’s more research based. Dramaturgy is fairly broad and doesn’t have one standard definition. What is my favorite definition of dramaturgy? Mark Bly’s explanation that, as a dramaturg, “I question”.
When my friend who came in to the writing center asked me if my work as a peer tutor is beneficial for my work as a dramaturg, I realized how much my work at the UCWbL is influenced by my dramaturgy practices.
A dramaturg’s role on a production is to constantly question and to seek answers for these questions. What are the main themes in the show? What does this adaptation say? Why are we doing this play now?
This questioning process is essential in the writing center as well. My personal style of tutoring is very similar to the standard practices of a dramaturg. I ask questions in my appointments as a way to understand the writer and what they intended with their writing.
Sometimes, questioning can be thought of with a bad connotation. Questions can be seen as accusations or a way to get out of being straightforward. I see how questions can sometimes come across like this, but I think they are the greatest tool that a writer, tutor, or dramaturg can use. I believe that questions are a way to illuminate a piece of writing. Asking questions helps us discover what lies at the heart of a piece of work.
Questions also help to realize some of the challenges of a piece of writing. This is not necessarily a bad thing because, by recognizing the challenges, you can understand what a reader might be struggling with. Challenges in themselves bring up some great questions: What do these challenges say about the work? Are they reflective of the themes? Are they something that should be pushed through or ignored?
I enjoy the work that I do at the UCWbL. I enjoy coming in to work everyday and feeling that I am growing as a writer and a dramaturg. Throughout my process of growing as a peer tutor at the UCWbL, I am learning about my own questioning process. What questions work? In what ways can I rephrase my questions to be more clear? What questions are actually helpful to a writer?
Dramaturgy is not a “normal” major, nor is it what people expect to hear when asking me what my major is while I’m working at the UCWbL. It may not be one one thinks of as a “standard” major for a peer tutor (spoiler: there actually aren’t really any “standard” majors — we have tutors from dozens of different fields), but I think it fits just right. My method of dramaturgy has helped me to inform my style as a peer tutor, and my peer tutoring is teaching me about my dramaturgical process. At the heart of both lies a deep love and appreciation for reading, writing, and questioning.