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Information Flows from the Literary Department

There are many, many scenarios where information crosses departmental boundaries. But before we think about how best to share information, let’s take a look at the core tasks and everyday routines of folks who work in one department.

The Play's the Thing. Yep, the Bard had it right. Without a script, actors would have no lines and unless we are watching a dance or musical presentation, the stage would be dark. The Literary Department is home to individuals who review potential play selections for the next season, cultivate relationships with playwrights and perform historical research known as dramaturgy to support actors’ interpretations of the text.

Some of the work accomplished by staff members may include:

  • Partnering with playwrights through many versions of a new script. Scripts can take months or even years to become mature enough for performance.

  • Maintain an awareness of other producing venues to learn what materials have been successful at drawing audiences in different markets.

  • Conduct post-show discussions with the patrons to deepen their understanding of the play.

  • Coordinate lobby displays that highlight various aspects of the production and provide additional background context for audience members.

  • Perform dramaturgy to illuminate obscure or related information for actors, directors, designers and possibly staff members in the Education Department, Marketing Department, Development Department and Press Department.

Literary Content Types. What kind of content does Literary staff typically generate as they move through their day? Of course this will vary from case to case, but here are some:

  • Internal reports on scripts read with annotations, summaries and viewpoints. These are used for play selection and may be an important source of input for the artistic team developing next year’s season.

  • Profile lists that document contact and biographical information of playwrights. – These must be kept updated in case someone wins a prestigious award or moves from a position at a university to being the playwright-in-residence at a particular theatre, for example.

  • Materials used to conduct writers workshops. Script analyses, meeting notes, etc.

  • Historical research that informs. This information can be repurposed by many other departments and is particularly valuable.

Questioning the Data. If we were to examine the content carefully, we would find many features needing to be identified so that important relationships can be established. Here are some of the questions Literary staff need to answer in order to do their work well:

  • What version of the script am I looking at? Who wrote it? How can I contact him/her or the agent? Have we done it before? Who else has done it? What audience demographic is interested in this kind of material? How well has the production sold in the past?

  • What themes are prevalent in the text? Are there topics difficult for our audience to grasp? Do the references make sense for a modern audience? Are the topics relevant for today’s current events? Do the memes fit our theatre’s mission statement? Do we want to take a chance and appeal to a new demographic by presenting this piece?

  • Have I or any other staff member in my department written about this play before? How can I find their summaries or annotations? Has the world changed since the first summary was written so that we need a new response?

Information Relationships. In information architecture, we try to uncover key relationships within the content. By analyzing the business questions above, relationships begin to emerge:

  • Play Title to Version Number

  • Script Summary to Play Title

  • Play Title to Production Instance (Date, Venue, Location)

  • Production Genre or Subject to Audience Type

  • Dramaturgical Research to Historic Period or Key Topic

  • Dramaturgical Research to Educational Product

  • Script Topic to Audience Engagement Plan

  • Script Topic to Grant Type

There are more, but this gives us a place to start.

Next time: Are You in Production Management Hell? Well, You're Not The Only One! What To Do.

Jayne Dutra is an enterprise information architect and a stage lighting/projection designer. Her IT consulting practice supports performing arts companies to better organize their materials so that they can focus on the creative process instead of drowning in information overload.

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