Enter Dramaturgs

Bert Cardullo

If you consult a dictionary, the meaning of the word "dramaturgy" you find there is "the craft or the techniques of dramatic composition considered collectively," and a "dramaturg" is defined simply as "a dramatist or playwright." Now we know that a playwright is a "maker" or "worker" of plays, not merely a writer of them (as a shipwright is a maker of ships and a wainwright a maker of wagons). This meaning of "playwright" is reinforced by the Greek word dramaturgy (and its back formation, dramaturg), which is made up of the root for "action or doing" (drame) and the suffix for "process or working" (-urgy). Here we may helpfully think of the words "metallurgy"--the working of metal--and "thaumaturgy"--the working of miracles.

But let us venture on another meaning of the word "dramaturgy," which has come into usage in the American theatre fairly recently. As a result of our belated acknowledgement of European theatre practice, "dramaturgy" today denotes the multi-faceted study of a given play: its author, content, style, and interpretive possibilities, together with its historical, theatrical, and intellectual background. This study is conducted by people called "dramaturgs" in the European repertory theatre, most conspicuously in Germany, where each of the approximately 120 municipal theatres has a dramaturgical department. The dramaturg's profession was instituted in the United States during the rise of the regional theatre movement and continues to be important in ensemble theatres as well as in those regional theatres that have remained non-commercial. As criting-in-residence (also known as literary managers or literary advisors), dramaturgs perform a variety of tasks. Broadly speaking, the dramaturg's duties are (1) to select and prepare playtexts for performance; (2) to advise directors and actors; and (3)

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