Researching Drama: Marketing & Digital Resources

As a graduate student who works on twentieth century drama as well as fiction, I have had at times the daunting task of finding information on past productions that seemingly have no digital footprint. I am less interested in bemoaning this fact than in spotlighting two recent examples I came across regarding (not coincidentally) the playwrights I work on and use those as jumping off points as to what role personal websites and marketing materials can have in offering insightful material for the Web 2.0 drama student.

The first is the Facebook page of the current revival of Tennessee Williams’ little-known and rarely produced play The Two Character Play. More than just a maketing site for the revival (though it never ceases to be just that), the page has strived to create a number of resources on Williams himself, the play at hand and the production itself. It’s at once a curatorial experiment, an advertising and a social media site all in one. (Its accompanying instagram is a nice companion piece).

The second is the personal website/blog of Adrienne Kennedy (you can see more material if you go to the almost egregiously unnavigational mobile site found here). Ms Kennedy, known for her one-act plays (Funnyhouse of a Negro, A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, Rat’s Mass) had already to my mind, amassed quite the “behind the scenes” document in her memoir/scrapbook People Who Led To My Plays and I had hoped her website would function in the same way, giving her readers insight into what went into creating and producing her plays. There is that here, but maybe given its interface and navigation, it is less helpful than it could be, though it has plenty of information that has made its way into my dissertation that I had found nowhere else.

There are surely similar examples out there of attempts by productions and/or playwrights to put their process (as well as their work) out there to be consumed in ways that skirt the line between marketing and research resources. Does this suggest a more savvy spectator — one who expects the behind the scenes information DVD bonus features and online featurettes we’ve come to associate and expect from film and, during awards season here in NYC, from big-budget theater productions? What does it mean that information that was usually relegated to program notes (and the occasional newspaper piece) is now readily available to those who need not attend the production? How does promotion and intellectual engagement come together in these instances and how helpful can they be to students of twentieth and twenty-first century drama?

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About Manuel Betancourt

I'm a graduate student; currently working on my dissertation entitled "Being in the Picture: The Movie Fan and Queer Literature" (you can check out a mini-teaser I made for it at my website). While I don't believe Google is indeed making us stupid, I do think Carr has interesting thing to teach us (and the freshmen I teach) about new technologies and the sheer breadth of the knowledge at our fingertips. I'm a devoted movie fan and have a point of making my dissertation speak to that very interest, arguing that we need not dismiss "fans" but investigate why that affective relationship to culture is usually so dismissed by some and mobilized by others. In particular, in my work on Williams and Kennedy I'm drawn to the way the stage and the screen are constantly pit against one another in discussions that seek to elevate one (usually over the other), even while both dramatists choose instead to stage the silver screen instead.