Here We Are Now, Entertain Us: Dramaturgy, the Theatre, and an Audience Full of Critics

40-minute talk with Toby Malone • Sunday 11:00 am

Kurt Cobain’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” refrain spoke directly to early 1990’s youth ennui, yet the phrase has evolved to live on today: those same discontented youths – now grown – settle back into a darkening theatre seat, arms folded. Here we are now. Entertain us.

Seems simple enough: why would an audience member leave their home to sit obediently in a darkened theatre if not for the promise of entertainment? The problem, of course, is that which entertains one audience member might bore the next. How do we in the performing arts bridge that gap when we consider how our work is interpreted in the live theatre, among audiences from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds? How do we catch lightning in a bottle? What’s the difference between a smash hit, sold-out run and a disappointment? And how does all this work when, as they say, ‘everyone’s a critic’?

Toby is a classical dramaturg: it’s his job to think about these critical audiences. A dramaturg provides context, research, support, and a critical eye in the rehearsal process, to catch inconsistencies and to offer advice that will strengthen the work. Toby’s talk will draw lines between his work in the professional theatre — with a specific emphasis on recent productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival — and the UX community, to demonstrate that solving the “here we are now, entertain us” problem can be more elusive than you’d think.

About Toby Malone

Toby Malone is an Australian theatre artist and educator. He holds a PhD in Shakespearean performance historiography from the University of Toronto, and has worked as an actor and dramaturg with companies that include the Stratford Festival, the Australian Shakespeare Company, Poorboy Theatre Scotland, Canadian Stage, the Arizona Theatre Company, the Shaw Festival, and Soulpepper Theatre Company. His scholarship has been published in journals including Canadian Theatre Review, Shakespeare Survey, the Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy, and Literature/Film Quarterly. Toby is currently a faculty member at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Drama and Speech Communication, where he is conducting post-doctoral research into digital presentations of the prompt-book collections in the Stratford Festival Archives.

Seriously, he kicks ass!