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Preface Ghost Light is an introductory handbook for the art and science of dramaturgy specifically as it is practiced in the American theater. Written with the undergraduate student in mind, this handbook is a useful tool not only for students of dramatic literature in general and those who wish to become professional dramaturgs but also for directors, designers, actors, and anyone else who wishes to improve his or her ability to do dramaturgy and to work with dramaturgs. This book presents an approach to dramaturgy that maximizes a dramaturg’s utility in the production of theatrical art as well as his or her leadership in the ongoing development of dramaturgy as a critical slice of the American theatrical pie. It is grounded in the writings of dramaturgs of the distant past and informed by current debates among American dramaturgs, directors, and playwrights about the nature and purpose of dramaturgy in our theater. By writing this book, I hope to advance the discipline of dramaturgy in the United States by encouraging students to explore the field and follow their passions. I have felt the call to dramaturgy because the skills I need to succeed in the other fields in which I work (theater history, critical theory, playwriting, teaching, and the study of dramatic literature) have direct applications here to the creation of a work of living art. Dramaturgy keeps me involved in the electric excitement of theatrical creation. I am fortunate to have been involved as a dramaturg in productions in which my input was deeply valued, in which I had a significant positive effect on a production, and in which I could create important bridges between administrators and artists, among the artists themselves, between the production and the script, and between the company and the audience. With some companies, I have been intimately involved in the selection of entire seasons of shows; with others, I have been asked to read and comment on a few script submissions. I have adapted classical and foreignlanguage texts for contemporary productions. I have had working relationships xi Chemers Frontmatter.indd 11 2/9/10 7:33:13 AM with playwrights, directors and artistic directors that were good, bad, and ugly (or at least indifferent). I have also worked with dramaturgs as a playwright myself, and I have worked as part of a dramaturgical team on international, multilanguage productions. Most American dramaturgs have similarly variegated work histories; what unites us is our love of theatrical discovery and the shared secret that dramaturgy, though difficult if it’s done well, is immeasurably rewarding and tremendously fun. Because dramaturgy is such a multifaceted discipline, not everyone who reads this book will find its conclusions consistent with his or her own practice or experience, nor can this book substitute for the critical training that an emerging dramaturg gets in the rehearsal hall and by working with more senior dramaturgs. The book is not meant to define once-and-for-all what dramaturgs can or should do. It is only meant to be an introduction to the discipline and to provide the basic intellectual and artistic equipment necessary for the new dramaturg to define through practice what constitutes his or her unique dramaturgy . Dramaturgy is truly a world of limitless possibilities, and it is a great joy and privilege to share it. Ghost Light has three sections: philosophy, analysis, and practice. The first section gives the practitioner a solid background in the history and utility of the discipline by describing dramaturgy’s extensive history and arguing why it is as indispensable as costume design or box office as American theater struggles to increase its relevance, depth, and breadth. . The second section works the most important skill set of the dramaturg, reading and writing, and describes a variety of techniques for skillful interpretation, diagnosis, and deep critical engagement with scripts and provides techniques for writing fluidly and meaningfully about them. Although the title of chapter 4, “The Twelve-Step Program,” alludes to the twelve-step model of recovery employed by addiction recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, it is not meant to be taken literally or explored too extensively. The model of analysis in this book does share with the twelve-step model of recovery certain key aspects; it is holistic, emphasizes personal humility and responsibility, is process-oriented, and provides tools that should guide the reader for the remainder of his or her life. The third section discusses how a dramaturg presents him or herself to the director as a...


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