What is a Dramaturg?
Dramaturgy, the concept as we know it today, formally originated in Germany with G.E. Lessing’s Hamburgische Dramaturgie, in which he examined the production of drama and how to improve it via deeper research. German playwright and theatre director Bertolt Brecht went on to further develop the dramaturg’s role. Beginning with Brecht, the dramaturg examined not only narrative and dialogue, but also the design and other aspects of the production. They think textually and thematically about works.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Hamburgische Dramaturgie. Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, München 1966. Image Author: Verlagsgruppe Random House.
Dramaturgy is the theory, study, and practice of dramatic composition. It is an exploration of and within the world of the play, as well as how that world interacts with our own. As each play and production are unique, the dramaturg’s actions differ slightly as each process requires a unique tactic to approach it. For some productions, more research and discussions are needed to tease out the inner themes of the play and bring them out on stage. Even with productions that may not have a traditional narrative, a dramaturg is still critical to understanding and developing important themes for the staged version. The dramaturg thinks of the construction of the work and how all the pieces of the production, from lighting to sound to clothes to dialogue to movement, interact to convey the meaning of the piece.
A dramaturg is an essential part of the production team for a play. The dramaturg delves deep into the script, reading it numerous times, providing a textual analysis, and diving into the history of the text and playwright. They provide information about the history of past productions of the play and contribute to design and production meetings.
The dramaturg helps the director in constructing and realizing their visions of the play into reality. The dramaturg does the research and reports back to the director with all the desired information. They also provided resource materials to the company, giving them notes on pronunciation, definitions, and more. They appraise directorial and design decisions to determine how they will be received by an audience.
The dramaturg is vital to any production, and their important work drives the coherent realization of plays for audiences to watch. Dramaturgy is alive in theatres all over the world today and continues to retain its position of utmost significance in their productions.
Want to learn more about the world of dramaturgy? Register for our Theatre & Thought series on Caryl Churchill’s Fen + The Dramaturgical Process!