A dramaturge or dramaturg is a literary adviser or editor in a theatre, opera, or film company who researches, selects, adapts, edits, and interprets scripts, libretti, texts, and printed programmes (or helps others with these tasks), consults with authors, and does public relations work. Its modern-day function was originated by the innovations of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an 18th-century German playwright, philosopher, and theatre theorist.
One of the dramaturge's contributions is to categorize and discuss the various types of plays or operas, their interconnectedness and their styles. The responsibilities of a dramaturge vary from one theatre or opera company to the next. They might include the hiring of actors, the development of a season of plays or operas with a sense of coherence among them, assistance with and editing of new plays or operas by resident or guest playwrights or composers/librettists, the creation of programmes or accompanying educational services, helping the director with rehearsals, and serving as elucidator of history or spokesperson for deceased or otherwise absent playwrights or composers. At larger theatres or opera houses, the dramaturge works on the historical and cultural research into the play or opera and its setting.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was hired by the Hamburg National Theatre in 1767, to serve as the theatre's critic of plays and acting, a position which would later be named dramaturge. This position grew over time to what it is today, encompassing the wide variety of tasks seen by modern dramaturgies.
Discrepancies with definition
The modern definition of dramaturge is often debated as to what specific tasks this job does, with some defining it as the bridge between the director and the actors, others defining it as one who determines the meaning of plays and shows for the actors, and others claiming that even they don’t quite have a complete definition for their job. This discrepancy between dramaturgies is likely due to the lack of an official historical definition, and the wide variety of tasks that dramaturgies could be asked to work on, depending on the theatre, director, the show being produced, and the actors. Since Gotthold Ephraim Lessing didn't create an official definition for his own position at the Hamburg National Theatre, modern dramaturgies have to infer their tasks based on what Lessing did during his career, and adapt to the current needs of modern theatre.
Recent growth of dramaturgies
Since the year 2000, the number of dramaturgies working around the world has increased, albeit it still remains a fairly rare job to have. In 2000, 400 dramaturgies were recorded to be active in the United States, with that number growing. There are various possibilities for what is causing this growth, but some dramaturgies attribute the growth to the fact that dramaturgy combines two popular studies for young students: the liberal arts and theatre. Some dramaturgies are worried, however, that this growth may slow down, due to a decrease in the number of modern plays being written.
- Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. "The American Heritage Dictionary entry: dramaturge". Ahdictionary.com. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- "Dramaturge definition and meaning - Collins English Dictionary". Collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- "dramaturge - Definition of dramaturge in US English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries - English. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- Schecter, Joel (1995). Cardullo, Bert (ed.). What is Dramaturgy?. American University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-8204-2177-3.
While at the Hamburg National Theatre, Lessing wrote Hamburg Dramaturgy, a collection of essays on theatre which popularized dramaturgy as both a word and a practice. Today Lessing's successors — resident theatre critics throughout Germany and Austria — are called dramaturg(e)s.
- Proehl, Geoffrey S (2008). Toward a Dramaturgical Sensibility:landscape and journey. Associated University Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-8386-4112-5.
dramaturgy is the name given to that set of elements necessary to the working of a play at any moment in its passage from imagination to embodiment ...
- "Gotthold Ephraim Lessing". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Online ed. 1998. October 2018 – via GALE Biography in Context.
- Dewald, Jonathan, ed. (October 2018). "Gotthold Ephraim Lessing". Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004 – via GALE Biography in Context.
- Honan, William H. "ARTS IN AMERICA; Dramaturges Take a While to Define Themselves". Retrieved 2018-10-25.
- "The Dramaturg Is In". AMERICAN THEATRE. 2015-09-29. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
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- Literary Managers & Dramaturgs of the Americas, official website of the organization of these professionals in North America