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Drew University Alums Team Up to Start Professional Development Theater Program

Emily Dzioba C’18 and Alyssa Sileo C’22 reflect on how Drew helped them achieve their goal

October 2022 – Two Drew University alums recently launched the 2022-23 cohort of The Storyteller Studio (STS), a new free professional development program for young playwrights and dramaturgs offered by the New Jersey Play Lab (NJPL).

Emily Dzioba C’18, an associate dramaturg with NJPL, created the program (and became its artistic director) to provide young playwrights and dramaturgs a collaborative space in which to hone their craft through peer and professional support.

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Dzioba

“When you graduate from any major, it’s often pretty lonely figuring things out,” she said. “And as a student artist, you’re losing your creative community you’ve had for years, figuring out what kind of artist you want to be as an adult, and then tackling the challenge of how to make art while balancing the demands of ‘survival’ jobs. I myself experienced many What now? How? moments after leaving school—there’s no clear blueprint of how to ‘become’ a professional dramaturg! The Storyteller Studio was born in December of 2020 as a way to explore a possible solution to this gap.”

Alyssa Sileo C’22 first joined STS as a cohort member in 2021 before Dzioba, whom Sileo met through Drew’s online networking platform Drew Connect, invited her to help run the program in 2022.

Shared experiences, perspectives, and lessons have helped the partnership flourish. Both touted Drew’s New York Semester on Theatre, its partnership with the Tectonic Theater Project, and Drew’s approach to learning.

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Sileo

“Emily and I took part in Drew’s New York Semester on Theatre three years apart,” said Sileo. “Even though hers was in person and mine was virtual, we both learned devising techniques from the Tectonic Theater Project that made us better collaborators. Something Emily and I have reflected on is how incredible it is that we got to take dramaturgy coursework as undergraduates. Not many bachelor’s programs in theatre even touch on dramaturgy, even though the discipline is crucial to making strong works of theatre. It’s safe to say that without our Drew theatre education, we may not have come into our own as dramaturgs, and have worked on a program like this that celebrates the dramaturg-playwright partnership.”

“Drew’s liberal arts approach to learning has consistently followed me in many endeavors, and proved to me time and time again that the best kinds of art happen when we collaborate holistically,” added Dzioba. “My time in the New York Semester on Theatre was absolutely formative. That whole experience working with the Tectonic Theater Project instilled a love and passion for generative collaborating, and also how important clear storytelling is in work.”

Now, the pair is spearheading the STS cohort, looking to apply those lessons from Drew in assisting young dramaturgs and playwrights.

“I want all participants to walk away feeling a grounded sense of artistic self, with a group of supportive collaborators who are rooting for them,” said Dzioba. “For Drew students in particular, I’m hoping to show that there is a place for them to continue to build relationships and make art, right here in New Jersey.”

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