Carnegie Mellon University
July 05, 2016

Q&A with City Theatre Company’s Clare Drobot

creative writing alumna clare drobot in City Theatre company's rehearsal room

Creative Writing Program alumna Clare Drobot presents research at the first rehearsal for City Theatre's production of "Some Brighter Distance."

The New York Times once described City Theatre Company as “Pittsburgh’s most innovative theater company.” As its Director of New Play Development, Clare Drobot (CW’05) is responsible for reading scripts submitted by writers and helping develop the company’s season of plays.

We recently had a chance to ask Drobot, who holds bachelor’s degrees in creative writing and music composition from Carnegie Mellon University, about her work at City Theatre—one of only a handful of theatres in the country that specializes in new play development. Read the Q+A below to learn how Drobot’s Carnegie Mellon education played a role in getting to this point in her career.

Tell us about your role as the Director of New Play Development.
There’s a great deal of script reading and working closely with our Artistic Director Tracy Brigden and Artistic Producer Reginald L. Douglas on the season selection process. We receive scripts in a variety of ways and I handle the correspondence with playwrights and agents. In addition to that, I’m a resident dramaturge, so I get to roll up my sleeves and work with some of the writers. Dramaturgy also includes working closely with directors on research packets and providing those for casts. One of the things that’s exciting about everybody on our staff is that they look at dramaturgy and theatre as a means of community engagement. I host talkbacks and City works with a number of organizations and people—from the Carnegie Science Center to local musicians—to partner on outreach efforts.

creative writing alumna clare drobot is the director of new play development at city theatreHow do you feel your CMU education prepared you for your career so far?
I credit the Creative Writing Program for teaching me about the world of writing, story structure and how to be an artist—it was a wonderful foundation. The professors I had, such as English Professor Jane Bernstein, were really influential on my career and were role models. Having professors like Sharon Dilworth and Jim Daniels, and then being able to continue relationships with them beyond school was really valuable. I also had the opportunity to take a class with CMU’s Dramatic Writing Program Director at the time. It was really eye opening and set me on the path of working in theater by giving me the fundamentals I needed.

Did you experience any challenges in the last 11 years of your career?
Any career in the arts is going to be filled with challenges, but for me it was really about going through the process of finding the right niche. Some of that is taking risks and going after work you find artistically fulfilling. Interning at New Dramatists and the McCarter Theatre introduced me to a world of theatre and new work that really resonated and from there it became ok—how do I make a living doing this thing? It was a circuitous journey getting there and I think that really reinforced the idea that perseverance is one of the keys to life.  

How did you get to this point in your career?
Prior to coming to City Theatre, I was a resident dramaturge and producing associate at Premiere Stages. They run a wonderful new play festival and it was a great opportunity to read many scripts. We did a workshop and a first and second production of a new play every year. It was a job where I wore every hat under the sun from being a line producer to a marketing coordinator to managing human resources documents to overseeing summer camps. It was exciting because I was able to flex my muscles in a number of skill sets. Before that, I founded a company in NY with four friends where we did a series of workshops and a full production. If you’re in theater, it’s good to produce your own work. We learned how to crowdfund, too. Previously, I worked as a literary manager for Passage Theatre and as a casting assistant for Laura Stanczyk in NY, which was really eye opening in terms of learning the ins and outs of the business of theater. Also, working as a writer is something I’ve always pursued and loved.

What are you working on right now as a writer?
I’m working on “The Bakken Formations” with CMU composition alumnus, Fritz Myers. We had the chance to perform it as a song cycle through Ars Nova’s ANT FEST and realized there was more of a story to it. It’s set against the backdrop of the North Dakota fracking boom and impending bust. Right now, I’m in the process of extending that into a full length. It ended up as a project on Creative Capital’s radar this past year so hopefully when we finish the draft, we can find a home for it.
By Amanda King

Headshot Photo Credit: Nate Boguszewski