Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Dramaturgy is the product of a bourgeois class consciousness

Welcome to jargon hell. I am your host, Gareth K Vile and tonight I want to tell you why dramaturgy is the reason that theatre is incapable of expressing anything other than the cultural values of capitalism.

Only joking: I love dramaturgy. And as one of the few people who actually knows what it is, I am the perfect guide to this tricky subject.

How do you like my new persona? I've been watching YouTube and finally realised that being arrogant is the best way to develop my cult of personality. Never mind the quality of argument, I have strong opinions.

As for dramaturgy: if Diderot isn't mentioned. the person describing it does not know what they are talking about. Back in the 1700s, Diderot initiated a conversation that led to the development of a new way of thinking about theatre. I've banged on about that quite enough elsewhere, but the basics are a focus on the live performance rather than the script, a move away from neo-classicism and, f course, the introduction of rationality in analysis and production.

That's your philosophical dramaturgy, mind. There is also practical dramaturgy - which is a fancy way of saying how a play gets made - and the dramaturg, a person with a specific role (in making theatre better). I'll be talking about philosophical dramaturgy today. 

I spent ages trying to understand dramaturgy, developing a hypothesis about it that recognised its essential political component. I was well pissed off when I found that Georg Lukacs summed it up in bout 1910 when he said 'modern drama is bourgeois' and that the nineteenth century saw the first class conscious theatre, articulating the battle between the bourgeois and the aristocrats. Still, at least we agreed.

Philosophical dramaturgy provides the hidden assumptions about theatre that inform the other types of dramaturgy. 

Hang on - this is my PhD. Watch while I try to put this into a blog post. Ambitious, much?

So - assumptions, right? Hidden away in theatre is this philosophical dramaturgy, which drives considerations of what makes good theatre. It's so omnipresent, it is invisible, inaudible, tasteless. It's a mash-up of enlightenment thought, a bit of Aristotle, social theory, audience analysis. It isn't systematic, more a collection of ideas petrified by time and tradition. 

I'm not interested in practical dramaturgy, except I totally am... it's just that it doesn't prove my point as easily. In the tradition of philosophers until about 1980, I am going to generalise about theatre without actually giving examples. Or footnotes.

But now for a word from our sponsors, and I'll be back after a break. Remember the take-home: philosophical dramaturgy is the hidden engine behind theatre, and it expresses a bourgeois manifesto. Enjoy the adverts...

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