A dramaturg is a theatre practitioner who focuses on how to convey the particular message the director wants to highlight.
Dramaturgs work with directors and actors to help focus the production on what it wants to say and how best to say it.
The work can involve:
- Encouraging, and helping directors get to grips with, new writing
You might organise events, awards, and festivals for up-and-coming playwrights. You might also provide one-to-one support, feedback and advice at writing workshops.
- Working closely with playwrights to achieve a script that will work in a stage space
You could be called upon to help the director anaalyse a play, looking closely at structure and content in order to help the director develop a coherent concept for the production before rehearsals start.
Your aim would be to explore how to achieve the meanings in the text on stage. You would help the director keep sight of the 'concept' behind the play throughout rehearsals, preserving the core ideas and keeping the play 'on-message'
- Reading and researching plays
You might need to research an era, theme or place for the artistic director of a theatre or arts venue, and suggest the best plays to put on next season.
This might include digging out 'forgotten' plays, or ordering new translations of foreign writing. You could help the director find the right translation of a foreign language play, one that fits the style of the production. You might also commission a new one. Finally, you might provide the director with useful research about previous performances of classic texts, along with the world of the play, its themes, and the time it was written in.
- Helping the cast to develop movement work
You could spend time observing dancers creating sequences. You would then advise the director on how these can be shaped further to bring the meaning of the show out more obviously or effectively.
- Devising new work
Sometimes a new play is produced without one single playwright but through workshops, research and adapting real-life stories and history. Dramaturgs often assist with this process.
- Adapting for the stage
You might help the director and playwright to adapt material for the stage (for example, from a novel).
- Editing and cutting
Your critical eye would help the director to shape the written drama that is being staged, including the order of scenes, and whether to cut any lines.
- Compiling the audience programme
Working with marketing staff and the director, you might help put the show's programme together, deciding whether any pieces of writing about the aims and intentions of the production could be included.
How do I get into dramaturgy?
There is no set route in, but an interest in drama and literature as subjects is important as dramaturgy can be more 'academic' than other theatre production work.
There is no set route in, but an interest in drama and literature is important.
Studying English literature and drama/theatre studies would probably be a good place to start. History skills and knowledge are also useful, as is the ability to carry out detailed research.
Finding ways to get involved with theatre production as much as possible, such as amateur directing, is a good idea.
The Dramaturg's Network also has a list of higher education courses in dramaturgy in the UK.