I have to confess, before this summer I had only a hazy sense of what “dramaturgy” entailed; the most I could have told you was that it was somehow related to drama. When I discovered that I would be helping with “dramaturgy stuff” I immediately went to the ever-helpful, all-encompassing Wikipedia. Unfortunately my research was futile, as I found only the following vague definition:
“Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. Some dramatists combine writing and dramaturgy when creating a drama. Others work with a specialist, called a dramaturg, to adapt a work for the stage.”
Hmm…I could still only conclude that dramaturgy had something to do with drama, and that a person called a dramaturg existed!
I have since learned (from Bill, who learned the art of dramaturgy in his graduate program at Villanova) that one of the things a dramaturg does is research background information on a play; for example, historical or cultural information which is pertinent to the work. There is also “cross-textual” dramaturgical research which looks for less literal information, and is oriented more towards inspiring creativity.
The dramaturg then puts together a dramaturgical notebook full of relevant articles, stories, notes, etc. for the director and actors to look at and use. The dramaturg should be the font of all knowledge for the play…
I have been doing some dramaturgical research for Dan Dietz’s Clementine in the Lower Nine, which has been both interesting and challenging. Clementine in the Lower Nine tells the story of a family in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and is loosely based on the story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Understanding more about the Lower Ninth Ward and its history, as well as the story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra has made Clementine even more interesting and enjoyable to read. I highly recommend the book Voices from the Storm, a collection of first-person accounts of living through Hurricane Katrina…
At www.playpenn.org you can find out where and when the Clementine in the Lower Nine reading will be taking place - it should be amazing!