It has often been charged that a dramaturg is really a director or dramatist manqué. Perhaps the blame lies with the first official dramaturg, Lessing, a talented man who probably could have assumed any role in the theatre and performed it superbly. Today's dramaturg finds himself in the position of defining his role--one that is either expanding or shrinking, depending upon your point of view (and your theatre!).
The problem of definition is not merely academic or theoretical but one that goes to the heart of the creative process of theatre both in Europe and the United States. The dramaturg, many people in the theatre agree, can play a vital role, but what that role is, what it should be, and whether in fact the dramaturg alone should perform it, have yet to be clearly established. These were the considerations that led me to reprint or commission essays, interviews, and statements that explore the state of dramaturgy from the late 1970s to the present day. My rationale for reprinting pieces from the 1970s and 1980s, opposed to publishing a volume consisting entirely of new material, is simple: the dramaturgical "explosion" in the United States, if not on the Continent, occurred at this time, and these documents from the period capture the excitement and profundity of Americans' discovery/Europeans' rediscovery of the idea of a dramaturgical theatre. In addition, these articles provide a valuable glimpse into the birth of a "new" theatrical profession and, what is more important, the concomitant rebirth or reimagining of much contemporary theatre.
The contributors to What Is Dramaturgy? take one or more of the following into account: (1) the role of the dramaturg in the theatrical life of the writer's country; (2) the dramaturg's function in his own theatre; (3) the differences and similarities between the functions of the dramaturg and the literary advisor; (4) the ideal qualifications for a dramaturg, including edu