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by Anna Kamaralli
posted 25/07/2015

Arts Friday 24 July

What on earth is Dramaturgy?

In a special edition of Arts Friday I got to discuss this elusive but crucial aspect of theatremaking with a couple of exceptionally qualified guests, who really, really love it:

Anthea Williams is the Associate Director (Literary) with Belvoir Street Theatre.

James Evans is the Resident Artist for Education with Bell Shakespeare.

Young white woman in front of window.

Anthea Williams

The Dramaturg is responsible for any aspect of a performance that relates to the text. In some theatre companies there is an in-house Dramaturg who consults with the Artistic Director about what plays should be included in the programme. This is often particularly in relation to new work. If a company is involved in commissioning a new play, the Dramaturg will be the person working most closely with the playwright to get the script into shape for performance.

If a play has a particular historic or political context, it will be the Dramaturg who does the background research, or assists the Director and actors to do their own, so that everyone is well informed about what they are communicating. Similarly, if the Director has decided on a ‘concept’ for a production, it will often be the Dramaturg who makes sure the execution of the concept is thought through in all its aspects, and that there is an internal consistency, and again, will provide research to ground the ideas securely.

Young, bearded white man holding up script.

James Evans

When classical texts, such as Shakespeare, are being adapted for modern performance conditions, the Dramaturg will be responsible, working closely with the Director, for making the necessary cuts, deciding on strategic changes, and making sure all the meanings are understood. Sometimes the Dramaturg will also assist the actors in figuring out the metre they are required to speak, when performing plays written in verse.

Between them, Anthea and James have all these responsibilities and more, and they talked us through the ins and outs of them, and how they handle the many hats they wear.

Listen back to this episode via the Arts Friday page on our Program Guide.

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