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Dramaturgy is the study of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. The word dramaturgy was coined by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in his influential work Hamburg Dramaturgy, written when he was employed by the Hamburg National Theatre as the world's first dramaturge. Dramaturgy is a distinct practice separate from play writing and directing, although a single individual may perform any combination of the three. Some dramatists combine writing and dramaturgy when creating a drama. Others work with a specialist, called a dramaturge, to adapt a work for the stage.

Dramaturgy may also be defined, more broadly, as shaping a story into a form that may be acted. Dramaturgy gives the work or the performance a structure, an understructure as well as a reference to Zeitgeist. Dramaturgy is a tool to scrutinize narrative strategies, cross-cultural signs and references, theater and film historic sources, genre, ideological approach, representing of gender roles etc. of a narrative-performative work.

Dramaturgy is a practice-based as well as practice-led discipline invented by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (the author of well known plays such as Miss Sara Sampson, Emilia Galotti, Minna von Barnhelm, and Nathan the Wise) in the 18th century. The Theater of Hamburg engaged him for some years for a position today known as ‘dramaturge’. He was first of this kind and described his task as ‘dramatic judge’ ("dramatischer Richter") who has to be able to tell the difference between the stake the play has or the main actor or the director to make us feel comfortable or not while watching a theatrical performance. From 1767–1770 Lessing wrote and published as result a series of criticisms entitled the Hamburg Dramaturgy (Hamburgische Dramaturgie). These works analyzed, criticized and theorized the German theatre, and made Lessing the father of modern Dramaturgy.

Further reading
  • Castagno, Paul. "Varieties of Monologic Strategy: the Dramaturgy of Len Jenkin and Mac Wellman," New Theatre Quarterly, Vol. IX, No. 34 (May 1993) pp. 134–146. Cambridge University Press.
  • Castagno, Paul. "Informing the New Dramaturgy: Critical Theory to Creative Process," Theatre Topics Vol 3: no. 1 (March 1993) pp. 29–42. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Castagno, Paul. New Playwriting Strategies: A Language Based Approach to Playwriting. New York, London: Routledge (2001).
  • Trencsényi, Katalin and Bernadette Cochrane. New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice. London: Bloomsbury (2014).
  • Stutterheim, Kerstin. Handbuch Angewandter Dramaturgie: Vom Geheimnis filmischen Erzählens, Film, TV und Games. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang (2015)


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