Dramaturgy – literally the play-work or the work of the play. It is both how the play functions – its narrative, language, structures, forms. And the function of making the play work – helping it find the right narrative, language, structures and forms. Us Play Nerds like words like dramaturgy – makes us look clever…
Dramaturgy can mean all aspects of the work of the play – how and why it is made, the publicity, the programme, where it is staged, who comes, what they pay – before you even get to the work on stage (if indeed there is a stage). Here in UK, it usually (but not exclusively) means working with a playwright on the text. Or constructing the performance text from extant material. Or enabling the company to generate and shape a performance text themselves. A form of script editing if you will.
I have done a lot (A LOT) of text dramaturgy/script editing. And I like to think by now I’m pretty good at it. I believe my strength is knowing how to help find the right form for each piece, and the right process for each writer. And a finely-honed instinct for narrative and structure.
I have also done a fair bit of the contextual dramaturgy: programming, putting together copy, contextual material and events. And I’m partial to dramaturgy which looks at all the aspects of bringing a production to stage with a good bit of research and development thrown in.
But it is the text dramaturgy/script editing which is the bread-and-butter of my work. It can be anything from a close working relationship with a writers and script/s from concept to production, to a set of notes on a draft (even if the note is – it is fine as it is, leave it alone).
Some artists, writers and companies I have worked with recently include:
Tiata Fahodzi – on Boi Boi is Dead by Zodwa Nyoni
Pauline Mayers – on a new piece of dance theatre
Jack Dean – writer and performer