Theatre patrons often bump into the word Dramaturge while exploring playbills at various performances across the world without understanding the function of the position and its role in a production. Most degreed theatre folk, sometimes, don’t know what a Dramaturge is or how one functions in the creation of a play. DSC thought it would not be robbery if we took time to provide that information for you in a way wherein you would leave the publication more informed:
First a Dramaturge is more or less a script doctor. If the play is a new Play a Dramaturge would first read the play and inform the Playwright of areas in the script that might not work well perhaps because the script might not yet be historically accurate.
The Dramaturge, for the actors might provide articles, photos, film footage or music that might help place the play in context for the actors during the rehearsal period. For instance, if a script read as follows:
(AS the lights rise on the stage, we see a fully well furnished, but used living area. There is a staircase at upstage right. Jimmy a tall bald man in his late twenties enters the front door at stage left as Lucy, his help mate enters from a staircase at upstage right.)
Today is a great day for side-pieces everywhere! (Lucy looks at him trying not to laugh.) You just hang in there long enough…and You get a coronation, and you get a coronation, and you get a coronation!
(cannot hold her amusement any longer and bursts out laughing)
You so crazy…Leave that woman alone. She did hang in there though. She is wearing that crown like, and what! What yall’ got now. And she ain’t no magazine picture either… Jimmy that go to show you looks not everything. She just might be a girl who don’t mind going to breakfast.
Although there may be some people in the audience and cast members who will be familiar, the Dramaturge would need to first identify the vernacular in the language to determine if it is regional or a pejorative and make sure the actors understand what is being said to allow the cast to effectively perform the lines so the audience can be clear on any underlying meanings. That is generally regarded as subtext. What exactly is a “sidepiece.” Most adult age people would understand that is a person engaged in an extra-marital affair. And the Turge, as the Dramaturge is often referred to among cast members would prompt cast members that one could reasonably assume the reference to coronation is a joke on the British Royals and the most recent wedding
nuptials delivered in an Oprah Winfrey like manner when giving out cars to audience members on her former day time talk show. A good Dramaturge might have to explore local Barbershops and Beauty Salons to understand the phrase “a girl who don’t mind going to breakfast,” and would quickly
learn that is subtext for a sexual act and one often used by men in polite company during the periods 80’s and 90’s. Some Dramaturge might even brand the play utilizing references from the 1980’s or 90’s as a period piece, which could be debatable. But it’s No different than what we know as Shakespeare. It was the language of the day and the manner in which people of that time spoke. The goal is to understand it by knowing what they meant in speaking to each other and others outside of their immediate social circles. The most important thing one should understand about dramaturgy and the work of the Dramaturge is that it is a position that functions to bring clarity for theatre patrons, the actors and design team if necessary.