Although Webster’s definition of dramaturgy affirms that dramaturgy is “the art or technique of dramatic composition and theatrical representation” (3), comprehending the definition of the word “dramaturg” is not so simple as affirming that the dramaturg is the professional that practices dramaturgy. The definition of this word is, in fact, more nuanced, hence also reflecting the complexity of the work and intended role of the dramaturg indeed. Throughout the process of semantical derivation of the word dramaturg from dramaturgy, changes occurred throughout time, based on the different roles performed by so-called “dramaturgs” at different locations and time-periods. When simply derived from the word dramaturgy, dramaturg meant the person responsible for “the art or technique of dramatic composition and theatrical representation” (3). However, the definition of dramaturg from a Germanic etymology standpoint is quite different, as introduced by Katherine Profeta. According to her, dramaturg is not simply the person who develops the play/dance, but rather the individual who notices, thinks and maybe even writes about the performance itself. Hence, in a way, a dramaturg can be considered a critic of dramaturgy, but not necessarily its producer. Considering this analytical framework, I would argue that the dramaturg may serve as platform that gives body, shape and perhaps meaning to dramaturgy without being involve in the production. To further complicate this interplay of definitions, dramaturgy can also be considered the work that a dramaturg does.
Concerning the role of a dramaturg as per the aforementioned definition, I would nuance the keyword’s definition by further engaging with the readings in order to explain how “dramaturg” is used in the context of Profeta’s text as a means of reflecting on the role of this figure and its epistemological essentialism. In other words, to what extent does the figure of the dramaturg actually come from a necessity that establishes a sine qua non condition for the establishment of meaning and reason to the performance? According to Profeta’s framework, the dramaturg is a symbolic construct that, from Lessing example’s purview, is involved in “writing, critiquing, evaluating and imagining a better future for the theater” (4). Therefore, in this sense, the figure of the dramaturg is not essential for dramaturgy, but rather serves as a vehicle capable of transforming, reimagining and thinking theater. Notwithstanding, one may still face the challenge exposed by Profeta in regards to the duality encompassing the definition and role of dramaturg, who can be deemed as the person who criticizes or produces the performance. To resolve this divide, Profeta emphasizes the way the playwright Bertolt Brecht split the definition of dramaturg into two categories: the institutional dramaturg and the production dramaturg. From a Brechtian viewpoint, however, one concept doesn’t overshadow the other, meaning that these concepts are not mutually exclusive. As a result, the dramaturg could encompass the role of someone who is both in charge of critiquing but also producing the play, hence bridging the gap between theory and practice. And reducing the gap between theory and practice can be seen as quintessential especially to dance, where meanings are not conveyed through verbal communication but rather through the juxtaposition of bodies in movement onto the audience. In the context of dance, Profeta argues that the dramaturg, although not essential, is one of the main reasons for the diversification of movement and, consequently, diversity of meanings.
One may wonder why I found the word dramaturg interesting or useful. As someone who really enjoys science, it was quite interesting for me to engage with an interesting comparison between the role of the dramaturg and the essence of evolutionary science. This idea emerged from Mark Bly’s work, who claims that the dramaturg’s definitional fluidity can lead to multitudes of creative offsprings, just like evolutionary science is crucial for organs diversification. Although one may argue that the work of the dramaturg is redundant and unnecessary, it is his/her role that ensures the propagation of creativity and different modes of imaginative expression within the realm of body-oriented performances e.g. contemporary dance. Drawing on concepts related to gene regulation, I find quite interesting how nature can resemble the dramaturg’s work. For instance, in eukaryotic gene regulation, there are several steps that may contribute to the expression/silencing of genes. Depending how genes are regulated, an organism develops different characteristics and its cells would then have different functions. One may wonder why there should be several steps to regulate the expression of genes instead of just one. To facilitate the understanding, one could imagine the steps as light switches. In the organism, there are several light-switch analogous structure to turn genes on/off. Back to the question, why should there be several light-switch resembling structures/mechanisms to regulate genes instead of just one? The answer lies on diversification. Thanks to the several steps involved in gene regulation, an organism is able to develop organs with various and distinct functions. In this sense, the diversity within the modus operandi, characteristics and works of different people within the dramaturg community may enhance the diversity of dance performances, hence furthering possibilities related to how bodies move, and what each movement could mean. And since the dramaturg has an influence in these aspects, I envision the dramaturg as an agent responsible for the embodiment of dramaturgy and, arguably, epistemologically essential to dance and theater, as it provides the moving bodies with meaning and reason.
This was quite a tour de force for a keyword essay. I want to touch on one word that is incredibly helpful, and that is “diversification.” While all the creators of a piece become ever more specialized in their role, the dramaturg has to diversity herself in order to readapt to every new work. But why? Mostly, it’s because even if a production has a set of contributors, the way they collaborate changes from piece to piece and sometimes the collaborators change with each job. Each artwork demands different attention to form. And yet the dramaturg know that there is some organic structure that resonates with a set of aesthetic and ethical principles. Sometimes the organizing force comes from the dramaturg herself – other times she has to change it up and disorganize something in order for something better to come about. She always has to learn how to diversify her own perspective — and that comes from motion. She should be schooled in the possible range of dramatic structure as well as the capacities of her collaborators – and maybe be diverse enough to add in skills that are not the other collaborators strength. It is the dramaturg’s job to ensure diversity – of her approaches to works as they demand some assistance, and of ways to be a collaborator to artists and a guardian of expressive meaning.