As a dramaturg, I am committed to supporting the creation of a new canon of plays that are for and by artists that look nothing like me (a cis white man);
the creation of a theatre that looks, sounds and feels like nothing we have seen previously;
and the creation of a theatre that is for people who never thought theatre was for them.
I grew up in that part of Pennsylvania that people refer to as Pennsyltucky going to a church that told me God would strike me down the second I thought about sex. Knowing this about my upbringing, is it any surprise that I’m passionate about work that confronts white supremacy, toxic masculinity and purity culture? My taste in plays is extremely eclectic but I definitely get excited about work filled with characters that defy categorization and are not afraid to get vulnerable about all the crap this world piles on them. I started out as a director but moved into dramaturgy when I realized that I was happiest during table work and never wanted to leave the rehearsal room. Bruce Springsteen gave me my love of short and sweet storytelling. Countless rides on The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World gave me my love for immersive theatre. Annie Baker and Chekhov showed me how the stage needs to be the space for the sad lives of ordinary people. I want to work on new plays that give audiences the same visceral thrill I had when I first saw Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.
I want to work on re-imagined classics that show audiences a new way to approach an old story like Daniel Fish did for me with his production of Oklahoma. As a dramaturg, I am committed to supporting the creation of a new canon of plays that are for and by artists that look nothing like me, a cis white man, the creation of a theatre that looks, sounds and feels like nothing we have seen previously about theatre, and the creation of a theatre that is for people who never thought theatre was for them. The plays I want to dramaturg are at their core the same stories about humanity we have been telling each other since the beginning of time. Our tools and ways to communicate may have changed but these stories inside us dying to get out are very much the same. That’s the theatre I love and want to make sure there is more of in this world.
Shaun Leisher (he/him/his) is a Philadelphia-based dramaturg, producer and arts education advocate. As a dramaturg, Shaun has worked on productions of CLYBOURNE PARK by Bruce Norris and SMART PEOPLE by Lydia R. Diamond under the direction of nationally-recognized theatre artist and educator, Kashi Johnson at Lehigh University. He was also part of the dramaturgy team for the workshop production of RAW PASTA by Maya Macdonald as part of the 2019 Ice Factory Festival and provided dramaturgy for Braving The Bard’s audio production of MACBETH, directed by Emma Cordray and Pria Daihya. As a producer, Shaun has organized play readings and new work festivals throughout Eastern Pennsylvania. Shaun has produced many events that highlight the power art has to address social issues including the Lehigh Valley Chapter of The Future Is Female Festival and the Kutztown, PA Chapter of Climate Change Theatre Action. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shaun made the switch to producing work virtually with Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts’ 2020 New Play Festival which featured workshop readings of original work by student playwrights with stage and screen actors including Bernardo Cubria, Malika Samuel, Alyssa May Gold and Emma Ramos. Having gotten his start in theatre as a director of middle and high school musicals, Shaun is a passionate advocate for arts education and he recently began contributing to the upcoming blog of the theatre education consulting organization, RE: Theatre.
Here are a few of the organizations and artists I have worked with recently!