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An Interview with New Voices: Young Voices Dramaturg Kelby Siddons

Written by Liza Mitchell


The role of the dramaturg is that of a guiding hand to help steer a story in the most meaningful direction that best serves the material. Kelby Siddons provided a sounding board and a soft landing to the playwrights selected as the winners of the New Voices: Young Voices program at Players by the Sea.


“Basically, I was just there to encourage them. For both of them, it was the first time that they had written a play this long so being an honest proxy, letting them know what I see and what works and providing some of the vocabulary of reinforcement as well, in particular about structure. ‘This is the moment you should save for the climax’ or ‘you’re staying expository until page five’ and ‘what can you do to demonstrate where the inciting incident is?’”


Helping to articulate what is was that they were doing and reflecting that back to them because their instincts are awesome but crispening all of those instincts so every time they made a move, they understood what impact it had. It worked if they got stuck in a rut. You go back to that vocabulary and things that worked before and say I can use that model for what happened really naturally on page seven.


"I provided sort of an outside eye looking at characterization and structure and mechanics more than anything else and let them know what they were doing and whether it had the effect they intended on me as an audience.”


Both playwrights were deeply influenced by established works, Hancock by Waiting for Godot while Culver looked to Death of a Salesman as his inspiration. “They’re originals. They really intelligently consumed a work that has come before them. They are pretty dang cultured so in talking to them, your cultural vocabulary is very similar so it’s not been any different working with these young people than it is working with any other playwright. They were a real delight”


“They both had really strong voices from the beginning. I feel like the voices they came in with, sometimes it was just about helping them get out of their own way and speak to that. They really both have their own distinct voices and that came through really strongly. I can’t take any credit for that and that’s really hard to teach, so I’m glad for that.”


“I think the moment I was probably proudest of them is sometimes when I would coach them a certain way and I would say things like ‘I really think you really need something here to raise the stakes’ or ‘the emotional payoff of this might be stronger is you switch this sequence’ they pushed back and I was like ‘okay, cool. This is also part of my job’. It’s just helping them realize what their voice and intention is. It’s really up to them how they address it. They are the ones who have to make these choices.”

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