In the third instalment of our 2014 Studio artists’ profiles we talk to Jennifer Medway about why she loves dramaturgy and what excites her about Griffin.
Where do you come from?
I grew up on a farm outside of a small town called Gunning and I went to school in Goulburn at Goulburn High. I was probably first introduced to theatre when I was in primary school. I remember being very excited when I got to be the one of the main parts in our year 4 play because I had a loud deep voice for an 8 year old and they needed people that could be heard at the back of the school hall. When I was much older I studied Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong with some very talented people and was really lucky to find a diverse approach to both traditional and non-traditional forms of theatre practice. I moved up to Sydney after graduating and started to look for ways to better learn about dramaturgy. I found great internships with both Playwriting Australia and Belvoir and was incredibly grateful to find mentors who I was able to learn a huge amount from and who really supported me and continue to support me in my career.
What do you do?
I’m currently working as a freelance dramaturg. I’m always unsure whether I can call myself an artist because I always feel like I’m more of a broker between the different creative forces coming from writers, directors and actors. I often think that the role of a dramaturg is to work with a writer to make their play achieve what they want it to achieve. I like the idea that dramaturgy is about conversation, not instruction and that it’s often my job to offer several terrible ideas that will allow a writer to come up with the good ones.
I’m currently in the rehearsal room for Jump for Jordan and it’s such a delightful process to get to discover a play with a writer in the room and even more delightful to get to work on a new Australian work. Prior to that I was the Associate Artist for Belvoir in 2012 and for the past few years have been working freelance for companies such as Playwriting Australia and also working on the new work of some emerging writers and theatre makers in the independent scene. Last year I worked as the Co-Artistic Director of the Crack Theatre Festival, which is a festival for emerging contemporary performance artists held in Newcastle as part of This Is Not Art.
Jennifer Medway at a PWA workshop
Why do you do it?
I really enjoy collaborative processes. I love meeting new people with incredible ideas and being a part of a process to make a story resonate with an audience. I’m really passionate about the representation of women in the theatre and of reflecting on stages real humans who we meet every day and not images of people copied from film and television. I think it’s vital that we hear stories representative of the broad backgrounds and experiences that our country consists of and I enjoy working with a team of people to bring these stories to an audience that is similarly diverse. I am most excited by work that is aware of the place it has within our everyday lives. This might be because it is politically charged but it might also be work that knows the impact that theatre can have on the way we see each other and the wider world and strives to represent things with a great sense of humanity. I’m really excited by the opportunity to have these conversations with writers and directors and to find work that is able to do this as well. I’m also really motivated by finding a team of people who treat each other as people first and who have a considerate and nurturing working environment. I think it’s an absolute delight to find a space where you can work with people towards the ultimate goal of giving something to an audience.
What are you most looking forward to, and what are you hoping to achieve during your year as a Griffin Studio artist?
I’m really looking forward to the rest of the rehearsal process of Jump for Jordan and looking forward to seeing it come to life. I’m also looking forward to getting to know the other studio artists and learning from them but also collaborating with them throughout the year. I’m excited by the chance to be exposed to all the new Australian writing that comes through the Griffin Award process and to see some great new work throughout the year. A big part of the year for me will be to continue to find new environments to test and extend my skills as a dramaturg. I’m hoping for some great conversations with a variety of artists and for an exciting year being a part of a company. By the end of the year I’d hope to know a lot more then I did at the start of it but to be excited and not overwhelmed by all the things I’ve yet to learn, see and do!