What is a Dramaturg?


A brief history of dramaturgy...

Many theatre historians believe that dramaturgy first began with the Ancient Greeks along side the creation of theatre. Aristotle's Poetics is the first example of  a literary mind outlining the necessary elements that a play must include in order for it to be considered a superior work. Just to remind you of the intense and lasting effects the Greeks have on theatre today, the word drama is derived from the Greek language meaning "actions".  So many consider Aristotle to be one of the world’s first dramaturgs.

Fast forward a few years to 18th century Germany and we find playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing working as a resident critic for the Hamburg National Theatre. It was there that Lessing wrote Hamburg Dramaturgy, a collection of theatrical essays that first popularized the term "dramaturgy." After Lessing opened the theatrical world to the importance of dramaturgy, dramaturgs became a necessary addition to almost all European theatre. In fact, in the early 1900s Bertolt Brecht, known throughout theatre history for his Epic plays, served as a resident dramaturg for the Munich Kammerspiele, Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theatre, and Piscator Stage further verifying the value a dramaturg adds to theatrical works.

Now, in the United States, the first higher education dramaturgy programs did not surface until the 1970s. Meanwhile by this time, dramaturgs had been a popular tool used amongst European theatres formally for about 200 years.  So in the grand scheme of American Theatre, dramaturgy is still a relatively new tool that many creators are unaware of.

Now What do Dramaturgs do?

Since Lessing first invented the term "dramaturgy," dramaturgs have been known to:

Assist playwrights in the writing stages of their works

Provide feedback to playwrights, directors, designers, and producers

Help direct plays

Work as research guides for directors and actors

Act as play readers for theatres looking to cultivate future seasons

Write their own essays and inserts for theatre programs

Host talk backs with audiences

And so much more!