Notes from the Literary Department…

Kind readers,

We know you probably seek out this blog to find insider information about the workings of Kentucky’s finest regional theater.  Instead, we thought we’d describe – in tedious detail – our daily lives as summer interns in the Literary Department.  There are two of us, Alex and Julie, which is nice because we help each other out when one of us is confused:

“Julie, this play makes no sense to me.”

“It’s double-sided, Alex.”


Anyway, we’d like to use this space to tell you a little about what we’re working on this summer.

I, Alex, will get us started.  I am a theater lover going into my senior year at college.  This summer, I have joined Team Literary at Actors Theatre to help read scripts, manage and oversee the submission process, help out on preliminary dramaturgical research for the upcoming season, and much more.  Actors Theatre has one of the largest literary departments in the country; I am thrilled to work at one of the leading sites of new play development.

Given the emphasis on new plays, there are always a lot of scripts in the office to be read.  Every year, we receive up to 800 full length submissions and countless more excerpts, which we then carefully read in consideration for the renowned Humana Festival; not to mention the more than 1,400 submissions we get for our annual 10-Minute Play Contest.  It’s a lot of reading.  Adrien and Amy – the dynamic duo that leads our department – each reads an absurd number of plays per week.  I don’t know how they do it.  Maybe they upload them directly into their brains like in The Matrix.  I wonder if they know Kung-Fu…

Anyway, in addition to reading scripts, a large portion of what the department works on is providing in-house dramaturgy for all of the plays that Actors Theatre produces.  Of the six season plays, Julie and I decided each to take three to start working on.  Julie had a background in South Asian Studies, so she chose to work on The Kite Runner.  I am a southern blues singer from the 1920s, so I decided to tackle Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.  So far, we have each been researching everything from biographical information on the author, performance histories, literary and character-based analysis, and historical background.  Hopefully, by the time we leave, we will have provided a base of research so that the dramaturgs who will be working on these shows can hit the ground running.

When I’m not working, I like to spend my free time enjoying the sights and sounds of Louisville.  I find that people here genuinely kind and friendly.  I’m from New York City, where it’s pretty rare to find anyone who will even make eye contact in the subway.  So it is nice when people on the street here ask how my day is going.

This has been my first ever blog post.  Exhilarating.  I hope they turn it into a movie with Meryl Streep.  I’m now going to pass the mic to Julie.

Hi everyone, I’m Julie, Alex’s other half.  Unlike Alex, this is not my first blog post.  I had a xanga (remember those?) in middle school and an ill-fated travel blog when I was in India this Fall.  So you’re in good hands.

Also unlike Alex, I am a thoroughly Midwestern girl, born and raised.  I grew up in Milwaukee, WI, and go to school in Northfield MN at Carleton College for English literature.  I acted for many years, but have lately found myself to be more interested in directing and dramaturgy.

Dramaturgy, in my mind, is the perfect marriage between the two things I like best—theater, and literature (call me uncouth, but I definitely prefer “theater” to “theatre”).  It’s a very flexible field, and the duties of a dramaturg are largely dependent on the particular situation.  There’s so much I still have to learn, but here’s a brief job description:

  • Help decide on scripts for the season
  • Read and select (or reject) the thousands of samples and scripts that get sent in for either the Humana Festival or 10 minute play contest.
  • Maintain relationships with playwrights—serve as a liaison between the institution and the individual
  • Do research on season productions to give the production team the information they need to make it as interesting and accurate as possible.  Research for the upcoming production of Mathew Spangler’s adaptation of The Kite Runner, for example, has involved a lot of research about kite fighting, languages in Afghanistan, and the country’s political history.

Lucky for me, I get to help out a lot with this in my capacity as an intern.  There are certainly typical intern duties like making copies or sorting the mail, but this is more than balanced by getting involved with more dramaturgical pursuits and meta conversations about what it is to be a dramaturg.

Here’s what a typical day looks like for me.  You should be jealous, because it’s a great day.

Get up, putter around the WG (its full name is the Weissinger Gaulbert, you would say the WG too), a lovely historic building that houses a lot of Actors employees, actors, and interns.  There are very often delicious baked goods sitting out in the lobby.

I walk to work, and shake off the sweat before I go inside (it’s consistently been in the 90s and so humid I could water ski through Downtown).  Once I’m there, I answer emails, collect the mail, send out rejection or request letters, make photo copies of scripts, read plays, raid the literary larder for pumpkin seed brittle or girl scout cookies, read plays, eat lunch, write or revise articles and oh, read some plays.

I particularly enjoy doing research for season plays (Alex and I split it up, and I’m working on Kite Runner, The Mystery of Irma Vep, and A Christmas Carol , all of which you should see they are FABULOUS).  It lets my inner English nerd cavort joyfully through fields of secondary source material and online databases.  Highlights: watching Boris Karloff in The Mummy (1940) to spot references in Irma Vep, rereading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and digging up obscure articles about previous Carol productions.

All of us (our supervisors, Amy Wegener and Adrien-Alice Hansel as well as our slave-driver Zach) have fun meetings both in and outside of the office, which very often involve treats and unusual hats.

After work, we all trickle back to the WG.  I usually head to the Y to go swimming, and/or Kroger’s for groceries and then cook dinner.  After that, I probably while away the rest of the evening watching a movie or reading.  Alex and I are both battling addictions to instant view on Netflix, and sometimes we succumb to the monster.

Other nights, though, we all hang out—the other day Alex cooked a PHENOMENAL Mexican dinner that a bunch of the interns enjoyed on the patio.  We all went to Churchill Downs to watch the races several weeks ago (my bets on a brat and mint julep paid off) for a little Kentucky flavor (Alex is a vegetarian, so KFC wasn’t an option).

Weekends are blissfully empty, with occasional adventures in the greater Louisville area.

Anyway, we hope that this blog post has given you a small glimpse into the inner life of Actors Theatre, and that you will buy tickets to see the amazing shows in the upcoming season.


Julie and Alex


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