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Interview with our Dramaturg, Shane Breaux

Position and include a one line description of what your position does?

As the Production Dramaturg, my responsibility is providing historical information on Shakespeare, his play, and details about the time it was written; what the play might have meant to its original Elizabethan audiences; then provide context for our particular production concept; and finally attend rehearsals and help facilitate it all coming together.

Brief background?

I grew up in the Cajun country of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and I have been working in the theatre in many capacities (actor, producer, playwright, dramaturg, historian) for about twenty-five years. I have been working with director Ross Williams and NYSX since its inception, and I currently teach theatre history and text analysis on various college campuses, while I am also working on my doctoral dissertation in theatre history at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. I don’t sleep much.

Favorite Shakespeare play and why?

Today, I would have to say that Titus Andronicus is my favorite Shakespeare play. It has a wonderful mix of humor, despair, political ideology, violence, and a joyful theatricality that feels very contemporary (despite all those obscure-to-us historical and mythological references, of course!). But ask me again tomorrow . . .

Two words to describe Much Ado?

Ridick. Yulous.

How did you get into dramaturgy?

I was first drawn to the theatre as a child by my love of musicals (Grease 2, baby!) and Carol Burnett’s variety show back in the early 80s (there wasn’t all that much live theatre in Lake Charles, LA, you understand). Many years later as an undergrad, I happened to see a production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which blew my mind about what theatre, and what plays in particular, could do. I immediately started reading and analyzing as many plays as I could. Then in 2009, I entered the Master of Arts program in Theatre History and Criticism at Brooklyn College where I was mentored by the great dramaturg Lynn M. Thomson.

What kind of research did you do for Much Ado?

The research I do for any Shakespearean production focuses on the play itself as well as on our production concept or setting in order to help everyone involved see how the director reached their preliminary creative decisions and to inspire the actors and designers to continue that process. Therefore, I pulled together information on how Much Ado playfully teases the limits of tragedy within comedy. In terms of our production concept, I shared recent newspaper articles about our reliance on social media and personal electronic devices, as well as the way those technologies have allowed fake news (i.e., the gossip and misinformation of the play) to both proliferate widely and quickly as well as to seem believable. I also use the Oxford English Dictionary to help define words and explore their multiple meanings.

What are the differences in this production of the show compared to traditional productions?

For NYSX, this is the first time that we have one cast performing in our main stage production as well as in ShakesBEER before taking it all on tour. In terms of the play, our terrific cast of actors is in the process of finding and creating some really fabulous moments that will crack you up and then make you earn that laugh by breaking your heart a little.