Who We Are
Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas was founded in 1985 as the volunteer membership organization for the professions of literary management and dramaturgy. LMDA is a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization with members throughout North America and abroad.
LMDA holds the belief that theater is a vital art form that has the power to nourish, educate, and transform individuals and their communities and that dramaturgy is central to the process of theater-making.
LMDA is committed to the following objectives:
- to affirm, support, and broaden the roles that literary managers and dramaturgs play in the theater
- to promote the exchange of information about the function, practice, and value of literary management and dramaturgy
- to encourage cooperation among the practitioners and theoreticians of dramaturgy
- to expand the boundaries of the field and enrich our conversation about the making of live performance by welcoming colleagues from disciplines such as dance, opera, and performance art
- to put emphasis on international exchange, as well as a commitment to diversity of form, culture, and content
- to encourage regional activity across North America
LMDA promotes the creation of stories that reflect a broad spectrum of authentic experiences in our diverse global community. We uphold equity, diversity, and inclusion as our foundational values, and we recognize and examine the intersectionality of our society. We are committed to provoking, addressing, and advocating for issues of justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and land/territory. Our membership is dedicated to fostering an environment of respect, celebrating difference, and seeing the principles above reflected in all aspects of our organization.
Please consider joining LMDA and adding your voice to these conversations.
Behind the scenes
The year was 1984. In January, Apple introduced its Macintosh personal computer. In October, Bishop Desmond Tutu’s Nobel Peace Prize was announced. In November, “Band-Aid” recorded its first charitable hit. In December, Cynthia Jenner, Alexis Greene, and Thomas Dunn laid the framework for a not-for-profit theatre organization in a letter to the Jerome Foundation. Along with a host of colleagues, they envisioned a dramaturgy and literary management support program, soon to be incorporated, that would include in its mission publishing a quarterly newsletter; providing a computerized information bank (including a dramaturgy bibliography and a list of academic programs and courses to support the field); establishing an intern program; and creating a committee to begin a series of conferences. Prior to that document’s generation and submission, as former LMDA President David Copelin has noted, “dramaturgs in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area had been meeting informally once a month, usually for lunch. . . . We often spoke (sighed, actually), about creating a national, formal organization of ‘turgs.”
New Dramatists generously donated office space and the use of its New York City facilities. On March 26th, 1985, LMDA was incorporated with directors Thomas G. Dunn, Susan Gregg, and Bonnie Marranca officially at the helm. That November, a national conference was sponsored by the newly formed LMDA and collaborators at Hunter College, assisted by a grant from the Arthur Foundation. (Notably, this first $1,000 grant was not awarded to a dramaturg but to playwright Sheldon Rosen, who authored a short play for a workshop at the conference.) Des McAnuff gave the keynote address, which was published in American Theatre and what was then called the LMDA Newsletter (1.1, January 1986).
In August of 1986, the first “official annual” LMDA conference was held at New Dramatists, an organization that would continue to be a much appreciated friend. That year the second issue of Yale Theater to be devoted to dramaturgy was edited by member Mark Bly. (The first was edited by Joel Schechter in 1978.)
In 1988, Michael Devine and DD Kugler became the first Canadian members of LMDA, and Kugler would later become the first Canadian officer (Vice-President, Communication and later LMDA President). LMDA Canada (established 1997), under the long-term leadership of Brian Quirt (later LMDA President) and currently Vicki Stroich (also 2010 Conference Chair), has achieved the distinct status of existing as both a strong national unit and a vital and integral partner in the umbrella organization Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.
LMDA in the late 1980s was fueled by the passions of many people who worked collectively to move the organization forward through organizational leadership and conference hosting: Alexis Greene, Cynthia Jenner, David Copelin, Rick Davis, Steven Hart, Lynn M. Thomson, Mark Bly, Morgan Jenness, Susan Jonas, and a host of others.
The third annual conference, in June of 1988, was titled “Dramaturgy and the Creative Process” and was held at the O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. Joe Chaikin gave a reading of his play Struck Dumb, co-authored with Jean-Claude van Itallie and commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum. At this conference, James Leverett was given an award for “Excellence in Dramaturgy.” Here is Leverett writing in the mid-80s in an article entitled “After the Revolution.”
Theatre can less and less afford to look like film and television, though it may always make creative use of them, along with everything else the world has to offer. It must, instead, look like exactly what it is: a finite space for infinite imagination.
The following year, LMDA hosted its first conference on the West coast. It was held at San Francisco State University with keynote speaker Anne Bogart, who spoke about connections among theatre, film, and television.
The early 1990s brought about a rush of activity for LMDA under the leadership of Anne Cattaneo, Victoria Abrash, Mark Bly, Jim Lewis, and others. In the summer of 1990, Richard Pettengill chaired a conference held in Chicago at DePaul University. At this conference, the name of the organization was changed to Literary Managers & Dramaturgs of the Americas. LMDA established a job line and hired Chiori Miyagawa as administrator, the first of several remarkable individuals to take on this position, to assist with memberships, conferences, and publications. Bravo!
And, yes, they really did have a picnic at the foot of the Lessing statue in Hyde Park, Chicago.
Among LMDA‘s notable achievements over the past 25 years are these services to the profession.
The LMDA Review, currently an online, peer reviewed journal serving as the organization‘s voice of dramaturgy and, under the editorship of D. J. Hopkins, in the process of achieving MLA accreditation. Generations of editorial and other leadership include Rick Davis, Steven Hart, Carey Perloff, Anne Cattaneo, Geoff Proehl, and Shelley Orr.
The LMDA Script Exchange, founded by Lynn M. Thomson and Anne Cattaneo to establish national networking about new plays and to build a community of new play dramaturgs; in its first eight years alone, the Script Exchange published 35 issues that included reviews of more than 1,000 new plays.
LMDA’s Advocacy Caucus, founded in 1996 by Lynn M. Thomson, which provided the first guidelines for employment of freelance dramaturgs based on member surveys conducted by the Caucus (with Lynn Thomson and Shirley Fishman at the helm) and ultimately generated the current LMDA Employment Guidelines.
The “virtual” presence of LMDA, which began with an electronic bulletin board system generated by Richard Finkelstein, then developed into the U Caucus Discussion List (1994), became affiliated for many years with the Dramaturgy Northwest website under the guidance of Geoff Proehl with support from the University of Puget Sound, and now includes the official LMDA website. The LMDA website is rich with national and international resources, and the organization also operates through our social networking presence on Facebook. Finally, the LMDA listserv, open to members and nonmembers, provides a forum for those seeking information about plays, production dramaturgy, current issues and events, and a myriad of other discussion points and debates pertaining to professional theatre — from local to international. It serves the needs of a diverse population of theatre practitioners and teachers.
Member-authored (and often LMDA> incubated) dramaturgy publications that both report and drive the profession, including the LMDA Source Book, Volume I (edited by Susan Jonas, for teachers), the Source Book, Volume II (Susan Jonas and Lee Devin); Mark Bly‘s seminal The Production Notebooks (Volume 1, 1997, Volume 2, 2001); the LMDA Bibliography, the Guide to Dramaturgy Training Programs, and Guide to Internships; Dramaturgy in American Theatre (Jonas, Lupu and Proehl, 1997); Between the Lines: the Process of Dramaturgy(Judith Rudakoff and Lynn Thomson, 2002); the Twentieth Anniversary Book (interviews with LMDA‘s past leaders by Shelley Orr and Liz Engelman, 2004); International Resources (edited by Vanessa Porteous and Madeleine Oldham); Internship Guidelines (edited by Brian Quirt and Carrie Hughes); Artful Making (Lee Devin and Robert Austin, 2003; Elliott Hayes winner, 2005); numerous articles by Paul Walsh, Michael Bigelow Dixon, Mark Bly, and DD Kugler; and most recently Geoff Proehl‘s Toward a DramaturgicalSensibility: Landscape and Journey (winner of ATHE‘s 2009 Outstanding Book on Theatre Award) and The Process of Dramaturgy: A Handbook by Julie Felise Dubiner, Scott R. Irelan and Anne Fletcher (2010).
Since 1991, a system of regional vice-presidents, who maintain a yearlong presence around the Americas and stage mini-conferences and other events for the dramaturgical and literary management communities—as well as promoting regional theatre venues and a healthy regional ecology. (See our website for the regions, which also provide lists of members in each.)
The successful Dramaturg-Driven Projects initiative Residency Grants, and Early Career Dramaturgs fund raisers, through which LMDA members and officers have raised funds to support the temporary hiring of dramaturgs at venues without staff literary support (sometimes leading to long-term employment); have awarded grants to dramaturg-driven projects in theatre, dance, and opera; have brought emerging dramaturgs to conferences by assisting with travel funds; and have provided a first year‘s free membership for ATHE‘s Dramaturgy Debut Panel winners and for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival‘s eight yearly dramaturgy competition regional winners. These programs have been driven by members Maxine Kern with the assistance of Susan Jonas (residencies); Kelly Miller, Madeleine Oldham, and currently Julie Felise Dubiner (ECDs funding); and D.J. Hopkins, Liz Engelman, Brian Quirt, Shelley Orr, Cindy SoRelle, Megan Monaghan, and Gregg Henry (ATHE/KCACTF initiatives).
Beginning in 2004, LMDA leaders Liz Engelman, Mark Bly, and Brian Quirt first generated an international dialoguewith playwrights and literary managers in Mexico, the UK (Dramaturgs‘ Network), and Europe—connections that have brought a host of visiting theatre practitioners to LMDA conferences and have generated current and potential collaborations as well as the international resources project noted above. The UK dramaturgs‘ network has studied our model. The Toronto, Minneapolis, and San Diego conferences provided for our international colleagues—playwrights and dramaturgs — a forum for presenting their work.
In 1999, through the labor of Michael Bigelow Dixon and Amy Wegner, LMDA established the Elliott Hayes Award, to be given annually for outstanding dramaturgy in the Americas. The award is named for the late Elliott Hayes, longtime literary manager and dramaturge for the Stratford Festival, who lost his life prematurely in an automobile accident. Its first recipients were Michele Volansky (Steppenwolf Theatre Company) and Lue Morgan Douthit (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Subsequent Hayes award honorees include Rebecca Rugg, Lynne M. Thomson, Judith Rudakoff, Megan Monaghan, Freddie Ashley, Brian Quirt (2), Mallory Catlett, Scott Horstein, Lee Devin, Melinda Finberg, Amy Steele, Ed Sobel, and Ilana Brownstein. It was awarded to Robyn Quick at the 25th Anniversary Conference banquet.
Finally, LMDA‘s Gotthold Ephraim Lessing Award, our most prestigious tribute, given for a lifetime of achievement, has been conferred upon Anne Cattaneo (1998), Arthur Ballet (2002), and Michael Lupu (2006). This award was again presented to Mark Bly during our 25th anniversary conference.