The Ghost Lights of Our Theaters: The Fate of Contemporary American Dramaturgs

Carol Rosen

I have a bleak news flash for would-be American "dramaturgs" and "literary managers," those students who still think that these terms are job titles rather than oxymorons. First, keep in mind that the dramaturg is probably the only member of the American university-theater production team who gets that esoteric joke in the opening sentence of this essay. And second, an opening sidebar: the dramaturg is also probably the only member of the American university production team who considers the dramaturg to be an indispensable member of the production team.

For a brief time, roughly spanning the era from the Vietnam War until the 1980s, universities spawned a glut of perpetual students transfixed by art. As always, graduate programs drew young scholars destined for academic careers, apprentice professors seeking graduate degrees in drama and in the sister arts for the traditional reasons: they were transfixed by art, impassioned with ideas, and devoted to teaching and to writing about theater's duality, its simultaneously ephemeral and eternal nature.

But for a while enrollments in graduate humanities programs were swelled by another kind of student. In the era bracketed by the Vietnam War at the start and by a plummeting economy at the end, a cultural phenomenon, a fad, emerged: the slacker generation, seeking escape from the world of clocks and calendars, found refuge in the oasis of academia. Tcmpermentally illsuited for the academic careers toward which they were propelling themselves, but even more ill-suited for sensible, buttondown lives, a whole generation of artists manqués went mind

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