Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Definitions of Dramaturgy.... (1)

Definitions are tools. I know that Plato saw them as an end point in his philosophy, but I prefer to fashion something then use it until it breaks. Then, I either fix it, or pick up whatever broke it, and use that instead.

Every so often, I need to come back to definitions, so that I can move forward, deeper into my analysis. These definitions might not be helpful, but they provide some kind of code that might clarify my postings, at least for a week or so.

The whole process of making theatre. Key uses include: dramaturgical choices (decisions made by the maker of a piece). Most frequently used to examine the way that a performance is made: to look at the dramaturgy of a play is to discuss the ideas and theories that formed its form and function.
Warning: there is a school of performance studies that uses dramaturgy to look at any human behaviour (the same school, inspired by Goffman, that regards all behaviour as 'performed'). This is useful because it expands the scope of theatre studies, and can explain stuff like gender identity or the reasons why certain groups act in the way they do (e.g. that Chelsea fan made a dramaturgical choice to use a stanley knife rather than a broken bottle).
Dramaturgy is often described through the use of metaphors (such as when my friend Elliot Roberts talks about 'the dramaturg as pyro-maniac'). This is useful for makers, but does not cover the full range of dramaturgy's functions. I am going to stick with the definition given by Graham Eatough in a recent seminar: it is about making a structure in time and space.

This is where the problems start: the dramaturg has no fixed role, but is variously described as 'the outside eye' or a fixer. Roughly, the dramaturg comes into a rehearsal process at various stages, and offers advice. Different dramaturgs have different approaches.
Warning: a dramaturg is not your mate coming in a week before production deadline. And there are far too many people who claim to be dramaturgs with no training or awareness of the possible strategies. Unless the person has had many years of theatrical experience, or has been trained as a dramaturg, odds are that they are a chancer.
Many writers double up as dramaturgs, and a responsible one will clarify their role - and they won't be writing the script. 

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