History and Definition of Dramaturgy


Students will identify the basic history and practice of dramaturgy by preparing notes for an upcoming brief quiz.


Materials Needed

Youtube clip
Overhead of notes or board with writing utensil


Lesson Directions


Anticipatory Set/Hook

Show the following clip (00:17 to 1:02): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oi1X249Dhk
How did the speakers in the clip define dramaturgy/dramaturgs?
[Possible answers/prompts: Taking an inert (inactive) script and turning it into a live performance; making artistic choices; asking “Why this play now?” dramaturgy combines history and creativity; dramaturgs are good at uncovering information and forming it into practical knowledge; finding information that is practical and that can be integrated into a performance/artistic whole.]



1. A Brief History of Dramaturgy [Write key words/phrases (underlined in lesson plan) on the board. Inform students that the following information will be on a quiz in the next class, and encourage them to take notes.]:
o Western theatre: The Poetics by Aristotle
· Written around 335 BC
· The Poetics is the earliest surviving Western work of dramatic theory.
· In this work, some of the things Aristotle analyzes are character, action, and speech in tragedy.
§ Character: the people in the play
§ Action: what the character does/is trying to do.
§ Speech: what the character says; the way the character says things, for example, dialect, phrasing in poetic form or prose.
o India: “Natayasatra” (‘The Art of Theatre’).
· Probably the earliest non-Western dramaturgic work.
· Written about 100 AD; describes the elements, dramatic forms and narrative structure of ancient Indian dance dramas.
· Motions, gestures, positions on stage all have meaning and are part of the storytelling of Indian drama.
§ Show portion of following clip of Indian dance drama: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5BaR4t_510
o German dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.
· Lessing is considered the father of modern dramaturgy.
· Coined the term “dramaturgy.”
· 1767-1770 wrote and published The Hamburg Dramaturgy (Hamburgische Dramaturgie). These works analyzed works in German theatre.
· Lessing’s work the basis of modern dramaturgy.


2. Defining Dramaturgy: [Write key words/phrases (underlined in lesson plan) on the board. Inform students that the following information will be on a quiz in the next class, and encourage them to take notes.]:
Briefly discuss the following:
o Dramaturgy may be broadly defined as shaping a story into a form that may be acted. Dramaturgy gives a dramatic work or performance a structure.


Briefly review dramatic structure from the first unit of the year:
Game: Annual Dramatics Structure Relay Race!
Give the class 00:30 to split themselves into groups of 3-5 people each; no less than 3 and no more than 5 in each group.
Have each group get in lines facing the white/chalk board and give each group a writing implement (chalk/whiteboard marker). Have each group choose someone to draw a large outline of dramatic structure on the white board–NOT the words, just the outline; draw an example to copy if necessary.
[Alternative: hang enough poster-size pieces of paper for one for each group on a wall or chalkboard; give each group a marker or large crayon, and ask one person to draw a large outline.]


[Play a sound byte of revving engines as underscore to the following instructions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDr3bqc9BB0 ß This can be looped and then laid under a track of “Real Gone” by Sheryl Crow for added awesomeness (“There is no charge for awesomeness.” This should be said.): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDg9BuFbCXY]
Announce the following:
Ladies, Gents, and Drama Kids! Today is the Annual Dramatics Structure Relay Race! On the “GO” signal, each group will race to the board one at a time and write one part of dramatic structure on the charts in front of you. The winning group will be crowned Coolest for the Day!
Here are the rules:
1. Each of the 5 parts of Dramatic Structure must be written on your outline.
2. Each racer can write only ONE piece of dramatic structure at a time. If a group has fewer than 5 racers, some racers may go twice, but a racer can NOT go twice in a row.
3. Each racer on a team must race at least once.
4. Each racer must race to the board, write one piece of dramatic structure, race back to the front of the team’s line, and hand off the marker to the next racer.
5. Teams: you will be allowed 00:60 to review dramatic structure and build your plan of attack.


Allow 00:60 for teams to organize themselves as to who will write what in what order; then announce:
Racers, approach your marks [hit play for underscore; students line up]. On your mark….Get ready ….Get set……Toe, behind the line, son….Get set…GO!!
Students race; winner is announced:
And the winner is…Team [team #]!! Way to go, racers. You are Coolest for the Day!
Go over the outlines with the students to make sure the elements of dramatic structure are named correctly and in the correct order: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, denouement (falling action acceptable).
o Refer to dramatic structure outlines on board and write the underlined word/phrases: Dramaturgy helps identify where the important structural elements happen in a script and, more importantly, why they happen in the story.
o Dramaturgy is:
· a comprehensive exploration of the context in which the play resides.
· The dramaturg is the resident “expert” on the context in which the play happens [write the following clusters on the board]:
§ the physical/geographic, historical, social/political, and economic context in which the action takes place.


3. Whiteboard lists OR lists on large sheets of paper: referring to the outline on the board, ask the class to divide into small groups (3-5 students per group) and give examples of each of the above clusters from [a familiar play the class has read in the year’s first unit; To Kill a Mockingbird will be the play referenced throughout this unit]. Review completed lists as a class. [Accept all answers that fit in each of the clusters; if students are unclear what may apply from the play to some of the clusters, prompt answers.]
o Physical and/or geographic setting [Maycomb, Alabama]
o Historical period/setting [1935; depression]
o Social and/or political issues [white vs. black; segregation; class structures: white middle class, black, “white trash”]
o Type of economy of the setting and/or characters (capitalism/communism, rich/poor, etc.) [capitalism; Finch family: somewhat poor but doing alright; Robinson family: poor; Ewells: poor.]


Assignment: Students will use the remaining time in class to each select three (adjust as needed) short one-act plays (no longer than 20 minutes each) to read. They will be prepared to briefly discuss the synopses of these plays in the following class. They may write their synopses on small cards or papers to help them make their presentations if they desire. A list of one-acts that are in the drama room library will be made available to students. [This list is not included in this unit, as drama room libraries vary greatly.] At the end of [a specified amount of the remaining class time], students will write their names and the plays they have checked out on a list.


Review: Remind students there will be a quiz at the beginning of the next class. Gather students together and review the notes from the lecture written on the board if time allows.



Assess participation and understanding of plot structure game.


Author’s Notes

Lecture can be adjusted according to class level. Full lecture may be more suitable for an AP Drama class.