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May 12, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 17

Megan Rulison

BC Junior Wins Major Theatrical Honor

Megan Rulison, a theater major from Canandaigua, NY, closed out her junior year in suitably dramatic fashion by winning the National Award in Dramaturgy at the 37th annual American College Theater Festival last month at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

A Presidential Scholar, Rulison was one of six finalists vying for the award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in dramaturgy - historical and literary research and analysis of a play, which can be highly useful for many aspects of staging a production. She had qualified for the nationals by winning the American College Theatre Festival's regional competition earlier this year.

Her winning entry described her dramaturgical work on two plays presented by the Theater Department in Robsham Theater last fall, "Credible Witness" and "Necessary Targets," which use conflicts in troubled areas of the world such as Somalia, Sri Lanka and especially the former Yugoslavia as backdrops.

Well in advance of the plays' premiere, Rulison studied the social, cultural and political history of the countries and regions, then offered the information in a variety of mediums to those involved in the production to help deepen their understanding of the issues. She created a Web site with recommended readings and films, compiled and made resource materials available to the cast and crew, and helped arrange for guest lectures by, among others, two Bosnian survivors of the war in Sarajevo and a young Serbian woman who taught the actors a song in Serbo-Croatian.

Rulison also sought to help the audience grasp the broader context of each play, supplementing the program notes by collaborating with part-time faculty member Charles Meyer (Fine Arts) on a display in the Robsham lobby of photographs from war-torn Bosnia and Kosovo.

"This was an incredible honor, and I'm so happy that this gives further recognition to BC's theater program," said Rulison, who was the youngest of the six finalists, some of whom were graduate students, she noted: "My roommate at the competition was 29 and going for her PhD."

Rulison confesses that at first she was skeptical about dramaturgy: When Assoc. Prof. Scott Cummings (Theater) asked her to assist him as a dramaturge and described what the job entailed, Rulison recalls that her reaction was, "So, instead of working on the stage, I have to do all this research?"

But Rulison relishes the role now. "I love taking apart plays," she said. "Everyone else in a production is distracted by the stage lights, or the costumes, or getting the lines right. I get to focus entirely on the script and its dramatic content, as well as the underlying ideas, and I can therefore help the director or the actors see aspects of the play they might not have realized before."

Her reward for winning the national competition, Rulison quips, is more work: She receives a full fellowship to the Eugene O'Neill Playwright Conference in Connecticut this summer, where she will serve as a dramaturge and literary assistant; the event draws both new and experienced theater professionals for workshops, lectures and stage readings.

-Sean Smith

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