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Wikipedia Dramaturgy

Earlier this year, dramaturgs from across the country joined forces for the first ever WikiTurgy edit-a-thon, an Internet-wide initiative to expand Wikipedia’s coverage of “under-/unsung theatre artists whose bodies of work contribute to the diverse landscape of theatre.” With the concept of intersectionality as a guiding principle, the WikiTurgy edit-a-thon rallied contributors from diverse communities to work towards “greater equity, inclusivity, and diversity” in public dramaturgy.

This online grassroots initiative was not, however, the first of its kind; in recent years, more and more advocates in various fields, ranging from science and mathematics to Black history, have used “edit-a-thons” to systematically update Wikipedia with more detailed portraits of oft-overlooked heroes. These content revisions help to abate the control of information by “institutional vanguards,” but perhaps equally important is the sense of community that these events impart. Edit-a-thons, including the recent WikiTurgy event, often establish host sites and central locations where individuals can physically come together, edit en masse, and build networks for future action.

The WikiTurgy edit-a-thon empowered individuals to combat historical illiteracy in the theatre field. This makes me wonder what figures are being left out of our history in other sectors. As I finished typing this last sentence (and coming from a dance background) I immediately went to Wikipedia to make sure that a page for Misty Copeland exists. Of course it does; she’s a “ballet superstar” and made history by becoming only the third African-American soloist in American Ballet Theatre’s history. But then, who was the first? After several earnest Google searches, I still cannot seem to find anything publicly available on this trailblazer. (If anyone can point me in the right direction or knows the answer to this mystery, I’m all ears.) This serves as a pointed reminder that we as cultural agents have a responsibility to tell and record the stories that may otherwise go untold — and this is a duty that extends far beyond a single event.

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