Introducing Dr. SHELLEY ORR, Dramaturgy Adviser

Dr. Shelley Orr, Associate Professor and Head of the MA in Theatre Arts, serves as the adviser to student Dramaturgs who work on the SDSU Season of Plays and Musicals. You can find out more about her here: SHELLEY ORR’S BIO

You may be wondering, “what exactly is a dramaturg?”

Dramaturgs have been working in theatres since before theatre Directors. The first Dramaturg was named Gotthold Ephriam Lessing, and he served as Dramaturg from 1747-1749 at the Hamburg National Theatre. So not only were Dramaturgs part of the theatre before Directors were in common use, Dramaturgs pre-date the founding of notable countries such as the United States and Germany.

  • A Dramaturg often helps the theatrical company (the director, actors, designers, stage managers) to know more about the play, the playwright, the time period, and the issues raised in the play
  • I often liken a Dramaturg to a consultant. Ideally, the Dramaturg can serve as the first audience member for a production. What they notice about a show can be very useful to the company.

Dramaturgs often do a lot of research for the shows on which they work. They often put together briefs of information before rehearsals begin for the company to draw upon as they are creating the world of the play.

Dramaturgs often provide feedback and share their views on the production as it is developing. This helps the company test out their artistic decisions before critics and other audience members come see the show.

Dramaturgs typically contribute in these ways to a production:

  • Provide the theatrical company with targeted research on the show
  • Create a website or other online materials to help the actors and audience know more about the show
  • Write a program note to help get the audience primed for the show
  • Create a thought-provoking lobby display to engage audience members

I really love being a dramaturg. Every show is different and requires different sets of skills to best serve it. I love that the job changes with each new production.

Dramaturgs are curious people. They tend to ask questions and want to know more. They are people who know that theatre can be very powerful. They take seriously the responsibility that a theatrical company has to audiences and work to enhance the experience for all involved.

You can learn more about Dramaturgs and Dramaturgy at the website for the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA), an international professional association. LINK TO LMDA

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