Senior Stories: Laura Henry: Combining theater and academics

Many GW students would say that they are most comfortable walking the halls of Congress or taking time to intern on a political campaign. But for Laura Henry, the place where she excels the most is the theater.

A senior graduating with a double major in dramatic literature and English, Henry differs from most of her class in this respect – she aims to pursue her future as a dramaturge.

Describing what a dramaturge does on a daily basis is not an easy task since, according to Henry, “it varies from person to person.” But what unites them all is a concentration on the research that underlies many theater productions.

“It’s more like the academic side of theater,” Henry said, adding that some typical responsibilities include ensuring the artistic integrity of plays by verifying that their content is historically accurate.

In addition, she said, they often participate in education outreach programs and “talkbacks” where they engage with the audience to gauge its opinion of a play.

Before coming to college, Henry knew she wanted to do something related to English. After a semester abroad in Rome and another in London – where she took a full set of literature courses including one at Shakespeare’s Globe – she solidified her desire to work as a dramaturge.

While abroad, she also worked for the Olney Theater Company, writing study guides for its education department. The company is based in the Maryland suburbs.

Contrary to what some may expect, Henry says GW was an optimal place for her to pursue dramaturgy. In spite of some criticism that the arts at GW are underrepresented, she reports having an overall positive experience of her time in D.C..

“It’s true that the arts get less attention here, but GW is good for getting a wide-ranging education, and the regional theater scene in D.C. is great,” said Henry, who had a GPA in the top two percent of her class.

This summer she plans to enter a graduate program at Harvard University’s Institute for Advanced Theater Training, where she will be part of a four-person class that will take her to Moscow for three months.

After that, she says she would most like to work in a theater setting doing, dramaturgical research or theater administration. And this is not the only possibility – she says she could also see herself as a theater critic, though she noted that the number of people in that area is dwindling.

For now, she is looking ahead to graduate school and the opportunity to study in thousands of miles away with a great deal of anticipation.

“I’m going to try and see as much theater as possible,” said Henry.

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