Dramaturgy

Dramaturgy

[dram-uh-tur-jee, drah-muh-]
Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. Some dramatists combine writing and dramaturgy when creating a drama. Others work with a specialist, called a dramaturge, to adapt a work to the stage.

Dramaturgy can also be defined, more broadly, as shaping a story or like elements into a form that can be acted. Dramaturgy gives the work or the performance a structure. More than actual writing, a dramaturg's work can often be defined as designing.

History of dramaturgy

In western canon the seminal work is Poetics by Aristotle (written around 350 BC). In this work Aristotle observes tragedy and comedy. He draws his conclusions by observing the Greek writers of his own time. We only have the half of his work which concerns tragedy, and he considers Oedipus Rex as the quintessential dramatic work.

Aristotle regards drama as a subsection of poetry, but he does analyze also the relations between character and action, speech, plot and the story. He gives examples of good plots and examines the reactions the plays awake in the audience. Many of his "rules" are often associated with "aristotelian drama", where deus ex machina is a weakness and where the action is structured economically. Many key concepts of drama, such as anagnorisis and katharsis, are discussed in Poetica. Lately Aristotle has been applied in numerous tv- and filmwriting guides, and the courses of "basic dramaturgy" usually rely heavily on Aristotle's thoughts.

In modern times, latter drama, especially absurdism and several avant-garde movements, have tried to break away from the aristotelian perspective. Aristotle's teachings have often been oversimplified, but it is fair to say that Poetica is the first western work on drama theory. It is also one of the few "academic" works that many artists find still useful. Many directors and writers have since written about their own dramaturgical thinking, Brecht, Grotowski and David Mamet among others.

See also symbolic interactionism, dramaturgical perspective.

Copyright

Since dramaturgy is defined in a general way and the function of a dramaturg can change from production to production, the U.S. copyright issues have very vague borders.

In 2006, there was debate based on the question of the extent to which a dramaturg owns a production, such as the case of Larson and Thompson. Thompson, Jonathan Larson's dramaturg on the musical Rent, claims she was a co-author of the work and that she never assigned, licensed or otherwise transferred her rights. She asks that the court declare her a co-author of Rent and grant her 16% of the author's share of the royalties. Although she made her claim only after the show became a big hit, the case is not without precedent, for 15% of the royalties of Angels in America go to the author's dramaturg.

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