What the $#*! is DRAMATURGY?

You may be asking yourself, what the $#*! is Dramaturgy? What does a dramaturg DO exactly? After 3 years in a graduate Dramaturgy program, I still sometimes find myself asking the same thing.   But here is the gist: a dramaturg is someone who is well-versed in theatre history, literature, and theory who assists playwrights in the development of their work and provides directors with research and analysis for existing plays (thanks go to my professor Art Borreca for this succinct description!).  With this training, dramaturgs become critics, professors, playwrights, artistic directors, literary managers, and work to develop audiences and education programs. At the core, the dramaturg contextualizes a play for the community so that audience can have a more fulfilling theatrical experience. The site for the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA), an organization of which I am a member, has an excellent page describing all the ways in which dramaturgs work in the contemporary theater. 

The word dramaturg means “playwright” in many other languages, as dramaturgy is technically defined as the craft of dramatic composition.  When I work as a dramaturg on a new play, I act as a sounding board for the writer so they can more easily work through their process, and I also break down the structure of the play to assist the playwright in more effectively telling their story. On published pieces, I conduct research on the performance history, textual analysis, other works by the same writer, and references in the text. This information is then shared with the director and actors, and then I am able to create dramaturgical materials to give to the audience, such as program notes or an informational lobby installation.  In rehearsal, I am always in the playwright’s corner, whether or not they are present (or even alive for that matter).

The title of this blog is an homage to the great, great, granddaddy of Dramaturgy, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Argued to be the first ever dramaturg, Lessing was a playwright and in-house critic for the German National Theatre in the mid-18th century.  The Hamburg Dramaturgy (Hamburgische Dramaturgie) is his theoretical text. Get it? The Columbus DramaTULLgy?? Oh, yeah.

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Published on March 5, 2011 at 1:18 AM  Leave a Comment  

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