UCF student Elle Sullivan has won the Southeast regional competition for dramaturgy at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and will be heading to Washington D.C. to compete at the national level this spring.
Sullivan, a junior majoring in Theatre Studies and minoring in Music, says her interest in the discipline stems from an interest in research and audience engagement. Used frequently in new play development, dramaturgs assist in gathering historical details and assist in the storytelling aspect of plays. They also assist frequently with audience engagement activities, such as pre-and post- show audience discussions and lobby displays.
“I was first interested in dramaturgy because it consists of a lot of historical research, but now I find that I really enjoy the audience engagement side,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan’s dramaturgy work was first noticed by an adjudicator visiting Theatre UCF for the fall 2013 production of The Drowsy Chaperone. “I approached [director Earl Weaver] and offered to be his dramaturg for Drowsy. He agreed, and I worked closely with the assistant director, Rebecca Kane, to research a long list of things Earl wanted more details on. I compiled a packet that included information about food products, language translations, studies of historical figures, and other details. Then I created a lobby display that a lot of patrons enjoyed when they came to see the show.”
“The number of dramaturgy students who get recognized at the regional level is small. For Elle to be recognized on the national level is huge. This is the perfect stepping stone for her to get into a graduate program for dramaturgy,” says Theatre faculty member Earl D. Weaver. “We’ve had very few undergraduate-level dramaturgs. Given that Elle initiated this position with me, it highlights her drive to get everything out of her BA education that she can.”
Sullivan credits her UCF education with helping her to get to the competition and doing well once there. “At UCF, I’ve had to do a lot of research and writing, which served me well when starting the project. Once at the competition, I was given the task of writing playbill notes for a new play. When the playwright asked for a complete rewrite with a three-hour deadline, I was prepared to switch gears and I made the deadline.”
The Theatre department has a long history of involvement with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Theatre Department chair and artistic director Christopher Niess says, “The Kennedy Center competitions provide a unique opportunity for the students to get a sense of theatre training and practice regionally and nationally. By developing this sense, students have an advantage in the marketplace as well as a more matured perspective of art and culture.”
This year, in addition to Sullivan’s achievement, Alex Bair, Lucas Perez, Eric Earley, and Helena Whittaker were Irene Ryan Acting Award semi-finalists; Will Yanni was awarded an honorable mention in scenic design; and Igor Yachmenov received an honorable mention in sound design.