WHAT IS DRAMATURGY?
Dramaturgy is an exploration of the world of the play—both the text* itself and how the text engages with the world in which we live.
*We're using the word "text" to mean whatever mode of storytelling is being used—language, movement, etc.
A dramaturg is a dedicated person on the creative team whose primary task is to support the play's development by asking key questions, starting conversations, researching, providing context, and helping the artists as they work together to tell the intended story.
Since each piece of theater is unique, the role of a dramaturg is further defined on a project-by-project basis. Each process requires a customized approach that begins with a deep understanding of the play and of the generative artist's goals.
WHAT MIGHT A DRAMATURG DO FOR YOU?
Here are a few examples.
—Let’s say you’re a playwright with a new play in a 29-hour reading. We can help identify what is exciting, what is confusing, and how its current structure is functioning via scene charts, timelines, character arcs and dialogue styles, list of plot points, etc.
—Let’s say you’re a musical theater writer with a first draft and demos. We can offer insight about the style, voicing, dramatic need, and build for each song, or track a tricky element in the show, like tone, dispensation of information, clues leading up to a reveal, or a significant prop.
—Let’s say you’re a deviser of a political dance piece in a workshop. We can ensure that the basic logic of the storytelling devices consistently follow through from point to point. We can assess the storytelling from various perspectives, and lead necessary conversations about representation.
—Let’s say you’re a director going into production with a large, historical play. We can create research packets of relevant information, articles, and videos to enrich actors’ understanding of the history, or write program material to provide context for the audience.
—Let’s say you’re a producer developing an experimental piece of theatre. In collaboration with the generative artists we can create a list of foundational rules to root the high-concept world. We can deconstruct how theatrical devices function from beginning to end.
While all theater artists practice dramaturgy within their various roles, it can be helpful to have a designated individual whose primary task is to support and fully realize the project's overall dramaturgy, working in tandem with the other designers to tell a cohesive story.
Here's one way to describe the role of a dramaturg: you're in the driver's seat, and we're riding shotgun next to you. Maybe you know your destination and would like someone to help navigate. We can do that. Maybe you don't know where you're headed yet. We can describe what we're seeing out our window—what's exciting, surprising, intriguing, and might be worth a further look—in hopes of helping you to create a complete and worthwhile journey.
Check out this page on the website of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas for a broader explanation of the role of the dramaturg.