Lately, a lot of nonsense has been written (and, of course, spoken) about dramaturgs and literary managers. From the Dramatists' Guild Quarterly to The Drama Review by way of Can Play, Theatre Times, and even American Theatre, playwrights and those who pretend to support their interests have taken some pretty hefty swings at our emerging professions. To hear some commentators tell it, most literary management is inept, and most dramaturgy, however well-meaning, is bad dramaturgy. Are literary managers and dramaturgs negative influences on our stages by definition?
"If they would just crawl back through the crack in the theatrical sidewalk that spawned them," goes the argument, "then things could get back to 'normal.' Remember the good old days when real artists like us created dramatic masterpieces with no taint of 'play development'? If only these stupid literary managers, these obtuse dramaturgs, these theatre nerds, these (God save us) intellectuals would take a hint and vanish! Oh, wouldn't that be heartwarming?"
Sorry. Wrong scapegoats.
We literary managers and dramaturgs are ready to define the nature and quality of the services we offer to playwrights, directors, producers, and audiences. Too often, people who are primarily looking after their own interests, their own territory, have made such choices for us. Too often, the result has been dramaturgical passivity, dissatisfaction, and dreary theatre. But enough is enough. Let's correct both bad press and bad practice. Let's explode some myths about our misunderstood professions.
MYTH #1:Literary managers and dramaturgs tell playwrights how to reunite their plays.