The American View: The Future for Dramaturgs on U.S. Campuses

C. J. Gianakaris

The collaborative nature of the stage has been argued for and won handily by theorists and practitioners alike. The long list of credits found on any play program gives concrete testament to the multitude who contribute their skills to realizing a stage production. In theatres on college campuses across North America, however, there is one position only rarely listed on the roster of those bringing theatre to life. The generic term in question is dramaturg--a strange, foreign-sounding title only vaguely understood outside the most inner sancta of university theatres. Small wonder that a possibly apocryphal story tells of a suspicious student-actor who, upon admitting he does not know the meaning of the term "dramaturg," then adds, "but I think it's German for 'smart-ass.'" 1

The truth is that the function, if not the actual profession, of the dramaturg has probably been with us from the beginning of the theatrical enterprise. Precision in defining and tracing the development of dramaturgy is nearly impossible, though, because of the variable tasks falling under its rubric. With respect to definition, the semantic heritage of the word is fuzzy at best. Indeed, the title "dramaturg" often is used interchangeably with "dramaturge" and "dramaturgist." The original Greek root for the term--dramatourgos--is of limited help, since it literally means "contriver." Nor is the German word much clearer, its literal meaning being "producer." All the same, there is an accepted definition that derives from the authority of custom, that is, the predominant usage for the term. In Europe's professional theatre over the past century, in particular, the title of dramaturg has come to mean "literary manager." Of course, "literary manager" covers a wide territory. But in as compact a definition as we can comfortably make, the dramaturg can be

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