Introduction to Dramaturgy and its Importance

Lesson 1: Introduction to Dramaturgy and its Importance


Learning Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of dramatic composition and theatrical representation as they correctly identify items that fit within the musical “Aladdin.”


Materials needed:
– Items to hide around the room (ie: a golden lamp, a camel stuffed animal, an umbrella, a blanket, a picnic basket, a jar of sand, an Arabian costume piece, a cowboy hat… etc.  These items should be able to be used for Aladdin as well as not.)
– Aladdin video clip
– Aladdin PowerPoint  Lesson 1.Aladdin
– Projector

Before students come to class, hide various random items around your classroom for a treasure hunt. Make sure these items are easily visible.  The items will be a variety of objects, ones that could support the theatrical representation of Aladdin and ones that don’t.  This way, students will further show their understanding of dramaturgy as they select the correct items, rather than every hidden item in the classroom.

Begin class by watching the beginning of the selected clip, showing the Broadway cast of Aladdin performing “Arabian Nights.” ( Watch until 1:42)
Before watching the clip, tell the students to watch for clues that help the audience know the context of the performance.  Let them know that you’ll be discussing what they see after the clip.


*watch the clip*


Class discussion:
Open the discussion by asking the students to share what clues they saw that helped them know the context of the performance.
              Possible answers: the movements they used (like when they had their hands together in front of them and moved their head in an Arabian way), the hair and makeup used, the fact that they were singing about an “Arabian night,” the costumes, the style of music used…


After the students have shared their observations, connect their observations to the responsibilities of a dramaturg. 

  • Define “dramaturg” as the person on the production team who deals mainly with research and development of plays and operas.
  • Teach the students about how a dramaturg looks for the dramatic composition of a production so that it can be historically accurate in their theatrical representation.
    • Movement, hair and makeup, music, costumes, lighting, and set are all included in the dramaturg’s research. It is their job to know what fits into the show, and what doesn’t.
  • Using the example of Aladdin, ask the students for a few examples of what they would expect to see in a production of Aladdin and why. (Possible answers: a specific lamp type because it fits the type of lamp sold in the area the production takes place, a set that represents the desert because it reflects the geographical area the production takes place, genie arm cuffs because it was a sign of bondage…) After a few suggestions are given, transition to the scavenger hunt.


Scavenger Hunt Instructions:
Students will walk around the room, looking for items that fit within the show Aladdin.  On a piece of paper, list the objects you find that meet the criteria.  This paper will be turned in at the end of class and used as a formal assessment.

After 3-5 minutes of searching the classroom, students will return to their seats and have about 5 minutes to briefly write why they think each item on their list fits in the show.  These justifications shouldn’t be long.  One-three sentences will work.  (Example: This clothing item could be used as a costume piece in the show Aladdin because it helps display how the Arab people dress.)


Once their lists are fully written, project the prepared PowerPoint to introduce the dramaturgy unit to the class.  This PowerPoint will give an overview of the things they’ll be learning in the next few days. Slides include set design, props, hair, makeup, and costuming.  Have the students take notes as each slide is shown describing the element’s importance to the show.  After its importance is identified, ask students for examples they’ve seen in previous productions they’ve participated in or attended. 

Setting – affects the lighting that will be used. (For example, Little Mermaid has blue lighting for the underwater scenes.  A morning scene may have hints of orange, pink, and possibly purple to help show that the sun is rising…)
Props – need to be historically accurate.  (Aladdin shouldn’t have a smart phone.  You Can’t Take It With You should have the right kind of music player in the living room…)
Hair and makeup – help display that it’s a different culture with their own style. (Every time period has a different hair and makeup style.  1920’s hair was slick and wavy, 1980’s were big and curly.  The makeup in the 1920’s was simple, elegant, and pale skin with bold lipstick.  1980’s had bold, very vibrant colored makeup with a slightly abstract feel.)
Costumes – represent the culture once again as well as social status. (If someone is poor and rundown, they’ll have torn and tattered clothing.  If a man is rich and well-known, they are likely to be wearing a suit and be very well put together.  Think of the difference of costumes in the show Annie where you have orphans as well as wealthy characters.)


Wrap up:
Inform the students that they’ll be creating a bulletin board that displays the basic dramaturg research points for a production at the end of this unit.  Divide the students into groups by tables and have them brainstorm different show ideas.  Each group should create a list of different show possibilities. 
For the last five minutes of class, have each student decide on a show they will be researching for this unit.  They will be researching that specific show in any personal work time they are given throughout the unit.


Have the students turn in their scavenger hunt list at the end of class.


Assessment (10 points): Students listed 5 items that met the criteria for the production of Aladdin on their scavenger hunt list.  Students also wrote at least 1-2 sentences describing why it fits in the show.  One point is taken away for every item under 5, and one point is taken away for every item without a justification.