Dramaturg—theatre’s most misunderstood field in terms of what we do and how we do it.
So, how do you define a term for—or create a job description of—work that shifts dramatically depending on the needs of a production? As a collective group, even dramaturgs wrestle to create an ideal definition.
You could go to the LMDA website and find your closest “outed” dramaturg and ask them what they do. Then find another one, since the answers will invariably be similar but different. Some dramaturgs “specialize.” For example, some will say they are “classical,” “contemporary,” “new play,” or “musical” dramaturgs. Some dramaturgs work specifically in the worlds of opera, dance, and even film and television. There are many who do all of the above. But whether you are a freelance dramaturg working with a group of artists on a single project, a frequent collaborator of a playwright or director, or a resident dramaturg at a theatre, odds are there are a number of similarities. You probably love to research unfamiliar worlds, you have a strong sense of inner logic in stories and when it’s gone awry, you have a passion for advocacy for artists, and you keep an awareness of the future audience alive in the room. There are a million things that dramaturgs do to get to that magical, alchemical moment that occurs when artists are huddled in the rehearsal room or theatre talking about what is and isn’t working in a production. When you see those folks clustered at the back of the theatre as you are leaving, odds are that someone in that discussion is a freelance or production dramaturg (or someone who identifies a dramaturgical ability as part of her skill set).
Dramaturgs work with various aspects of the production of a work, including crafting educational materials, creating marketing copy, facilitating conversations amongst the artistic team, and running a post-show discussion. If you need it done for a production, a dramaturg can do it!
If you are interested in more information, one of the best places to begin is the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the America’s (LMDA) website.
By the way, what we aren’t: librarians surrounded by stacks of dusty books (unless the job calls for it). As the video makes clear, we are also NOT the playwright. We just want to help them realize THEIR vision!
— Martine Kei Green-Rogers & Beth Blickers
Martine Kei Green-Rogers is a proud LMDA member, an “all-over-the-place” freelance dramaturg, and assistant professor at SUNY: New Paltz.
Beth Blickers is the President of LMDA and an agent at Abrams Artists Agency.
This video was made by TDF and Clubbed Thumb