Anna Woodruff is a core member of the SMALL PLAYS FOR GIANTS team and is the dedicated dramaturg on all five productions. We asked her a few questions so that you could get to know her a bit better!
What's your favorite part of working on a new show?
I love that everyone gets their hands in the pot. It’s such a collaborative process and it’s a privilege to have dramaturgical conversations not only with the playwright, but with designers, actors, producers, and audience members!
Some of my favorite moments in the rehearsal room are when a designer has an idea pop up in their head, or when an actor is stuck on something, and that conversation completely changes the play. There’s a vulnerability that exists in a new play, in that, anything is possible because it’s a living, breathing text.
When has art helped you overcome something in your life?
It happens everyday. Art in any form allows me to understand another person’s experience. Empathy is the most powerful tool humans have. I'll get more specific though. In the spring of 2013, Connecticut Repertory Theatre was producing Simon Stephen's play Punk Rock and I was the dramaturg on this beautiful play about a school shooter. On December 14th, I remember just having finished my final exams ready to head home for the holiday when we got news that there had been a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I spent that week avoiding the news because it felt just too devastating. I avoided conversations with people. After some reflection, I was expecting an email from the director saying we would be cancelling the production. In that moment, I couldn't imagine how we could stage something with such content, so similar to what had happened in our own community. The first day of rehearsal came, and there had been no such email in my inbox. The director gave an inspiring speech at the start of rehearsal telling us about the reflection she had done the past few months. She had come to the conclusion that there was no other choice but to do this play. To go back not the decision to produce such a provocative play would be cowardly. We are here to tell stories, to engage in empathy. What better time than now? It showed me that what we are doing is powerful and can be frightening at times, but we need to dig deep into that fright and see what is underneath it in order to coexist as human beings.
What are some what-ifs you're following or hope to follow soon?
I really want to do a play centered around food. Theatre is my first love. Food is my second love. I love them both for similar reasons: both tell you something about a culture or group of people, both bring people together creating a community, and if it’s REALLY good it will make me feel full. So I’m interested in working on something that brings people together for both art and food. Maybe actors share a meal with audience members?
What other artists inspire you?
I find myself always returning to José Rivera, his sense of time and landscape just make sense to me.
Suzan-Lori Parks’ reconstruction of history and richly complicated characters is fascinatingly beautiful. I’m really excited to see what’s coming up next for her. Also can’t wait to see her new film adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son!
Somebody I’ve recently been returning to is Mister Rogers. I grew up watching him and never realized the impact he had on me until I grew up. He prioritized the audience, making us feel seen and at the same time dismantled hierarchies that exist within individual societies like America. Using art he exemplified ways to express feelings, deal with anger, and, most importantly, how to show love. Here’s a quote I love: “In a way, you’ve already won in this world because you’re the only one who can be you.” I think it’s important for us to learn this growing up, and to also remind ourselves of this as adults.
What projects do you have coming up next?
I am the dramaturg for the new play Field, Awakening by Melis Aker directed by Tatiana Pandiani which will be produced at Corkscrew Theater Festival July 14-22. Check out https://corkscrewfestival.org/field-awakening for tickets and more information.
I will also be working on Melis Aker's new one act play commissioned by Atlantic Theater Company for the Middle Eastern Mixfest on August 13. For tickets, RSVP here.