by Katalin Trencsényi, reprinted with permission
Mark Bly and Arena Stage have a rich history together. Mark's first job out of college was as Arena’s Associate Literary Manager. He returned as Senior Dramaturg and Director of the New Play Downstairs Series (2004–2008), and again as Dramaturg for Molly Smith's 2014 production of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, starring Kathleen Turner. Recently Mark was profiled in the International Association of Theatre Critics' webjournal, Critical Stages. Below is an excerpt of his interview.
An American dramaturg, editor, and lecturer, Bly was the chair of the Playwriting Program at the Yale School of Drama from 1992-2004, while being the associate artistic director at the Yale Rep. He taught dramaturgy at Yale and was the director of the MFA Playwriting Program at Hunter College from 2011-2013, and is currently adjunct professor in the MFA Playwriting Program at Fordham/Primary Stages. Over the past thirty-five years, he has served as a dramaturg, director of new play development, and associate artistic director at venues such as Arena Stage, the Alley Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, Seattle Rep, Yale Rep and, on Broadway, dramaturging and producing over two hundred plays. In 1985, he became the first dramaturg to be credited on a Broadway production when he worked on Execution of Justice written and directed by Emily Mann. Bly has been the dramaturg for the world premieres of plays by Rajiv Joseph, Suzan-Lori Parks, Tim Blake Nelson, Sarah Ruhl, Kenneth Lin, and Moisés Kaufman. He has written for Yale’s Theatre Magazine as contributing editor and advisory editor, TheatreForum, American Theatre, LMDA Review, and contributed to Dramaturgy in American Theater: A Sourcebook (1996), and The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy (2014). He is the editor of Production Notebooks: Theatre in Process (Vol I. 1996, Vol. II. 2001). In 2010 Bly received the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas’ G.E. Lessing Career Achievement Award. Most recently, he established the Bly LMDA Creative Capacity Grant and Fellowship to fund and support innovative projects furthering the field of dramaturgy. He is currently the resident dramaturg for The Acting Company of New York.
"I applied to be associate literary manager at the Arena Stage in Washington. There I was working under Zelda Fichandler, one of the founders of the resident theatre movement in America and who premiered the play The Great White Hope—one might argue helping to launch the careers of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. I was there for about one and a half years, but my position was largely one to discover new plays to be produced in the new play festival.
But I have always been a bit of a rebel. I found ways of making myself available to the directors and doing some “guerrilla production dramaturgy” on the sly. I did research but much more by giving notes on the rehearsals and previews and becoming a sounding board for artistic explorations. Zelda found out but she didn’t say too much. Years later, at a national theatre conference, I heard that in speaking to some dramaturgs about the value of the profession Zelda told them that I had brought “dramaturgy to the Arena Stage.”
Click here to read the full Critical Stages interview.