Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pygmalion: A Look at the Research Process with Skye Robinson Hillis

In our continuing series of posts looking behind-the scenes at BoHo's co-production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre, we spoke with dramaturg Sky Robinson Hillis about how she approached researching a period show with this much history.

How to you get started when you're putting together research for a show? What's your first step?

Skye: It depends on the type of play you're working on, and whether or not it's a new play. Usually I begin with research of the era, particularly with a play like this. The time period is always the jumping off point for me. It usually guides me in the right direction. Everything starts there.

How do you anticipate what research might be most useful for the production team?

Skye:Anticipation is not always reliable, so I prefer just to ask them. I lay the groundwork and then if there's something specific they need me to focus on, better to find that out sooner than later. But generally, I would say we all tend to be interested in the same thing, and have a similar idea of what's important, as per the director's vision.

Drowning in information is possibly even less useful than having no information at all.

Where do you find your information? What has been your most interesting source for Pygmalion?

Skye:All over. Both the library and the internet. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. For this production, I read a lot of books on Victorian and Edwardian etiquette, so I became "Miss Manners." Maybe due to the time period we were looking at, the library was actually the more useful of the two. My most interesting source was actually this fantastic website that essentially turned Victorian England into an interactive Google map-type deal and allowed us to explore the city of London at that time. (I would include the link, but evidently now you have to pay for it.)

What is the most fun about being a dramaturg?

Skye:I'm just a giant nerd, so just about everything is the most fun thing. Working on this was especially so because Pygmalion has been one of my favorite plays since I was about thirteen and this was the first time I'd had any opportunity to actually be involved in a production of it. Researching the relationship between George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell is pretty much just an average Friday night for Skye Robinson Hillis, so it was a blast.

What is the most challenging aspect?

Skye:The most challenging aspect tends to be the filtering the information. Picking and choosing from all the gems you've discovered in order to focus on what's most relevant to the production, to the play we're making. But it's important to make those decisions and not overwhelm. Drowning in information is possibly even less useful than having no information at all.

Pygmalion is currently running at Theater Wit through February 10th. Learn more...

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