Atiha Sen Gupta: Top Tips From A Dramaturg

22 March 2023

Writer & dramaturg Atiha Sen Gupta, who is working with our Young Company, shares her top tips about starting out as a dramaturg for theatre.

TARA THEATRE: How would you describe the role of the dramaturg?

Dramaturgy is distillation. I see the role of the dramaturg as someone who gets to the essence of the piece. A dramaturg supports the writer or the company to tell the story that they want to tell.

TARA THEATRE: How did you first get into writing and dramaturgy?

I joined the Heat & Light Company at Hampstead Theatre back in the day when there were lots of resources available and we were allowed to act, write and direct our own plays. It was semi-professional and an incredible opportunity.

TARA THEATRE: What has been your personal journey into becoming a writer & dramaturg?

When I was 17 I was offered a ‘seed’ commission by Hampstead Theatre to develop an idea which later became What Fatima Did. I was the bridge between the learning department and the literary department. I have been writing ever since (except for a four year uni ‘break’ because my mum told me to…)

TARA THEATRE: Who does the dramaturg work most closely with during a production?

Usually a dramaturg works most closely with the writer to help them shape their piece. However in the context of DNA, I am working with the actors of the Young Company to bring their vision to life. I also spend a lot of time with the director discussing the main themes that emerge from our workshops and going back and forth on how best to tell the story.

TARA THEATRE: What are the top 3 skills that a good dramaturg should have?

I think the top 3 skills a good dramaturg should have are: sensitivity, flexibility and generosity. I have found that it is often not what you say but how you say it that matters. Criticism can either be constructive or destructive – I always aim to contribute thoughts and ideas that can help the writer to produce the best possible version of their story. A good dramaturg is on the writer’s side.

TARA THEATRE: What are some steps emerging dramaturgs or writers can take to improve their skills?

The best thing an emerging dramaturg or writer can do is read, read, read! Get a sense of different genres of plays, different playwrights, different ways of telling stories.

TARA THEATRE: What are some of the ways you can get started in writing for the stage as a beginner?

The best way to get started as a writer is by contacting your local theatre and getting involved in their literary events. I also think submitting work to competitions can be helpful. Even if you don’t win, it’s a useful deadline to get your work in and then you have a finished script to hand as your calling card.

TARA THEATRE: Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in daily life – people are characters, stories are everywhere. I am a magpie – always looking for the shiny things in someone else’s conversation to steal for my own work.

TARA THEATRE: In what ways are you making your practice more sustainable?

This is a really good question and I don’t have an answer – I will use this as a provocation to make my practice more sustainable going forward.

TARA THEATRE: In what ways can dramaturgy or writing be radical and political?

I believe all writing is political, even the writing that professes not to be – that is a choice and a privilege. Writing and dramaturgy can be radical if it tells the stories that no one else is telling. I always say that I like to write about the people who stitch the red carpet, rather than those who stand on it.

TARA THEATRE: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out?

Have another world to disappear into when the theatre world gets too much – it can be anything but I think having another job is useful as it provides a stable wage and a separate identity to just being a theatre maker.


Atiha Sen Gupta is a writer who is interested in telling the stories of those who stitch the red carpet rather than those who stand on it.

For theatre, Atiha has written for Hampstead Theatre (What Fatima Did, 2009) and (State Red, 2014), Theatre Royal Stratford East (Counting Stars, 2016), Derby Theatre (Abi, 2018) and RADA (GIG, 2019). For TV, Atiha has written for SkinsHolby City and is currently writing for EastEnders. Atiha has written a short film about Grenfell called Salma for Film4 and Slam Films.

Atiha’s work has been nominated for the Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright Award, the John Whiting Award (2010) and Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award (2015). 


The Tara Theatre Young Company will perform their original devised show on 18-22 April. Find out more and book below.