Julia Bumke (she/her) is a new work dramaturg and creative producer who collaborates with composers, librettists, and playwrights at all stages of their careers. She is the Executive Director of JACK Music Inc., the nonprofit contemporary music organization behind JACK Quartet. Hailed by The New York Times as “our leading new-music foursome,” JACK and its nonprofit expand and enhance the string quartet repertoire by collaborating with composers on the interpretation of existing works and the commissioning of new works.
This season, Julia is the guest producer of the Look + Listen Festival, an interdisciplinary new music and art festival in New York City that celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022. As a dramaturg, Julia works with opera and theater artists to craft singular pieces, bringing them back to their founding intention for their projects as a combination of editor, advocate, and trusted confidante. During the 2020-2021 season, she was the interim Artistic Director at Passage Theatre Company in Trenton, NJ, where she led online programming that spoke to the theater’s core values of inclusion, community, and empathy.
Her recent and upcoming dramaturgical projects include premieres and workshops with Oberlin Conservatory, OPERA America, Passage Theatre Company, Opera Philadelphia, Curtis Institute of Music, PlayPenn, PEAK Performances at Montclair State University, the American Repertory Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, among others.
Julia has held administrative positions at Sō Percussion, PlayPenn, The Wilma Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the American Repertory Theater. She also consults about fundraising campaigns, grant writing, and strategic planning, with recent clients including BalletX, a contemporary ballet company specializing in world premieres; Emma’s Torch, which empowers refugees through culinary education; and Directors Gathering, a service organization for theater directors.
Julia received her A.B. from Princeton, and a dual M.F.A. degree in Dramaturgy from A.R.T.’s Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard and the Moscow Art Theater.
I believe in bringing creative artists back to their original intention for a piece: why this project now, and what sparked this curiosity in the first place? As a creator prepares for a world premiere, any number of financial and artistic decisions can compromise this founding impetus. By keeping their intention at the forefront of our conversations, I help artists create rigorous projects that are true to their core reason for being, leading to pieces that are as thorough as they are inventive.
I love working on projects that defy genres and push against form constraints to make something new. I’ve dramaturged everything from an opera with six trumpets, an eight-man chorus, and a tenor who plays both a lighthouse-keeper and the wife who haunts him; to a Yiddish-Cuban opera-musical-drama mash-up; to a project where the lead mezzo-soprano uses AutoTune and a vocoder to explore where humans end and robots begin. I’ve worked in museum galleries, cramped windowless studios, outdoor theaters, and 1,000-seat proscenium opera halls alike. Through them all, I find new work dramaturgy exhilarating because of its sheer lack of a road map. It lets me connect deeply with artists at their most vulnerable moments of creation, getting to the heart of each project and teasing out its singular path to success.