The Dramaturge

*Image: Nadja (in orange) immersed in the middle of the Gene Tree Project workshop #1 in Carlton Connect Lab14 artistic research residency (September 2016), image – Tess Hutson

In our last article we studied how the Gene Tree Project team members, Composer/Musician Elissa Goodrich and Evolutionary Biologist Dr Anna Syme approach change and adaptation in their professional lives.

Over the next coming articles we’ll be introducing you to more members of the Gene Tree Project team, including the musicians and the audience.

Yes, that’s right, the audience. You might not have realised as you sit in a Gene Tree Project workshop or gig that you, as the audience, play an important role. But, more on that later.

Right now we’d like to introduce you to Nadja Kostich who is the Dramaturge at the Gene Tree Project. Recently we all sat down with a cup of tea on sunny day at the edge of a garden and talked about her role in the project.

And it had to be asked, what is a Dramaturge? Her answer was elegant and deceptively simple; to help the performers keep clarifying the core idea of the piece.

Like all Directors, Artists, Scientists and Performers, Nadja has her own work style that she brings to her pivotal role. And if you’ve read our previous articles, it will be a style that you’re familiar with too.

She observed, listened, asked questions, and then observed again.

As Elissa, Anna and Nadja started to collaborate in the studio back in July 2016 this cyclic pattern quickly emerged. It was a culture that later embraced musicians Adam and Gideon when they joined the team in September 2016.

Assuming this thoughtful and gently provocative role allowed Nadja to respond to the knowledge and experience in the room, both the artistic and the scientific. Nadja’s role was to honour everyone’s individual strengths and qualities, and to ensure that they were woven into the fabric of the piece.

And it was her role to anchor the conversation and information back to the emotional heart of the piece; the human condition. Nadja says, “I kept honing it back to our stories. Not necessarily to use them, but to come back to the personal.” She also guided the group to consider our bigger, shared story. Nadja says, “Through Anna we were able to lift out of the personal to observe the timeline of evolution.”

By moving between these two perspectives on life, the micro and the macro, Nadja helped the team identify connections and patterns to shape the work’s narrative. By discovering the relationship between the personal and the global, between the small moment and the centuries of time, the team saw the interrelatedness of everything.

They contemplated how organisms respond to change and how an action creates a reaction. They asked if there was stillness and silence in biology as there is in music and the everyday. And they thought about their own impact on life.

Nadja believes the success of the Gene Tree Project’s work is that it allows us all to experience that dialogue. Whether we’re an artist or audience, we can observe, listen, and ask ourselves questions that encourage us to connect and participate.

Then perhaps, just perhaps, we can all benefit from our own inner Dramaturge.

Written by Cressida Bradley, with Elissa Goodrich and Nadja Kostich.


Read on to discover how, as an audience member, you are part of the Gene Tree Project’s work.

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