March 18, 2013 .docx

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Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
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Alan Ackerman

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March 18, 2013 – DRAMA LECTURE Lecture on Dramaturgy and Beckett: Dramaturgy: Giving the crew and cast information/facts/knowledge necessary to portray the characters and deliver the story. The word dramaturgy is made up of 2 Greek roots: “drama” (= action) and “ergos” (= work). So dramaturgy is the work of drama or how drama works. When we talk about understanding a scene, it means being aware of the literary dramatic conventions (in lighting, scenery) that make drama go. We have dramaturgical devices that make drama work. There is a more specialized but related word for dramaturgy. A dramaturge is a person who serves as a historical, literary and philosophical consciousness of a production of a theatrical company. The person helps make an artistic vision reality. Dramaturges collaborate with playwrights and make suggestions for revisions. What does a dramaturge do? What are the set of practices that revolve around dramaturgy? Dramaturgy as an idea, as a practice can be a key word under which we assemble the kind of learning and thinking that we do in a class like DRM100. We want to bring this together with the work we do in theatres, in studios. Dramaturgy can help answer questions like “Why is this scene important”? Dramaturgy can be a unifying force. It can give us a set of tools to answer questions. Part I: The Long and Short History of Dramaturgy We will begin in 18 century Germany. We will talk about the work and ideas of playwrights, poets, critics and probably also dramaturges. The first is the very first dramaturge Gotthold Lessing. The men worked in theatres of their time doing jobs we would describe as dramaturgy. Their works continue to be read today. They argue for the importance of a form historical research and form criticism in drama. They want to be informed historical, critical people. Lessing was hired by the Hamburg National Theatre (at this time, Germany is a whole bunch of countries, it is not a unified nation), which is the first National Theatre in Germany. It is intended to be a permanent subsidies repertory theatre. It is a single company that exists to perform a number of shows. His job at the company was to select the plays to be a part of the repertory and to write criticism about the plays that were produced and to publish them. At the time, criticism of theatre meant writing about acting. But Lessing published essays about how drama works and what makes a good play. “The theatre is to be the school of the moral world.” Lessing argued that his position was to select plays that would fulfill that mission and to help the actors put plays on that fulfilled this mission. What selection of plays was right to convey the message Lessing wanted to convey? Lessing wanted us to be able to determine when an old play was worth producing and when a new play was one worth putting on. Lessing wanted criticism to be a part of the production process for a play. He, as a critic, can offer to make it better, to help fulfill the mission of the company. Criticism is the backbone of the theatre making process. Lessing wanted to do Shakespeare (he wanted it re-translated in German). There was a long history of playwrights improving Shakespeare. Lessing wrote the Hamburg Dramaturgy. In this play, he says dramaturgy is the art of distinguishing what is proper to the play and what is proper to the production, as well as the figure that comes to mediate between the two. Friedrich Schiller wrote philosophically about what makes art art. In his role as chief critic, he championed the idea that the theatre had a social and educational role in the state. The theatre could perform this role through the chief critic. He also wanted to do Shakespeare originally, and wanted to do plays from the Greek and Roman Antiquity. He wanted to do the originals! As in the GREEK version of the Greek tragedies. He said the plays fulfilled the morals of the stage particularly well. Schiller argues that the doing of historical drama is important for its historical function. The theatre can be a point of contact with the past. Lessing and Schiller argue that the theatre is for something. It has messages to deliver. There has to be a critically and historically informed figure who will ensure that the theatre is a moral institution through historical and critical expertise. We need someone with a broad knowledge about many plays, the ability to understand style and theme. We need to translate plays, an understanding of the art of acting. We need the ability to think about a group of plays and how they gthtogether to carry a moral message. This is synthetic thinking about drama. From the 18 century to today, the role of dramaturgy is taken for granted in Europe, especially in Germany. But in North America, the role of dramaturge is relatively recent. It is really in the last 10 years or so that dramaturgy as a course has come to be offered in universities. Much of the practice of dramaturgy has been shaped by the methods and practices of the Yale Schoo
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