ast fall, Upper School English teacher Kristin Kovacic’s Song, Stage, and Screen class was well into reading The Tempest when she discovered that WT’s Performing Arts Department would be staging Shakespeare’s classic for its winter play. Electrified by the coincidence, Kovacic approached Director Barbara Holmes, and a remarkable idea emerged. Kovacic’s students—working with Holmes—would partner in the production. But first, they would prepare by learning about a whole new field of work and study called dramaturgy: the art or technique of dramatic composition and theatrical representation.

“Prior to this, not many of us had a good grasp on what dramaturgy truly is, or even how to properly pronounce it,” admits Kovacic. “We learned that a dramaturg is an educator: of director, cast, and audience. Dramaturgs are also key assets in marketing a production.”

Armed with this knowledge, Kovacic’s student dramaturgs researched the history, context, language, controversies, music, and imagery that would guide the production. They created program notes, interviews, a podcast, and more. And some fledgling dramaturgs even participated in the play, making The Tempest an authentic immersion experience in literature and theater.

“They were driving their own learning by considering the needs of the people—actors and audiences—they needed to teach,” states Kovacic. Intensifying the impact was “the introduction of a specific and very real audience into our learning environment. When students asked typical task-oriented questions, such as ‘How many words do I have to write?’ or ‘When is this due?’ I replied that the answer to those questions was determined by the needs of our client, who was Mrs. Holmes, and our product, which was the play itself.”

“I enjoyed how the collaboration crossed the curricular/extracurricular boundary in our school,” reflects Kovacic. “The plays that Barbara Holmes produces are extraordinarily sophisticated, and miraculously, all of the work is done after school. I think crossing that boundary with my students helped us see that afterschool work as part of a larger discipline, and not something tacked on to a core education.”