Research Matters

Research Matters

The Dramaturg

Historic and sociological research into a play can change the way a director and actors stage a production.

Aired September 13, 2009

2 minutes 3.7 MB) | Download mp3


Historic and sociological research into a play can change the way a director and actors stage a production. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Enter: The Dramaturg. A dramaturg investigates the forces that shape a play's writing, looks into the world portrayed by a playwright and reads criticism of a play and its productions. For KU Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," Jeff List, a graduate teaching assistant with the department of theatre, acts as dramaturg.

List: I try and focus on three different areas of a play. First, we talk in terms the world of the playwright. The play was written in a specific historical moment and written by a specific person. We also look into the world of the play. In Macbeth, we're talking about Scotland, we're talking about a real Macbeth. Third is the theory and criticism that has been generated surrounding a play.

In addition conducting to historical research concerning a play, a dramaturg looks at a play's record of theatrical performances.

List: We try and do a fairly comprehensive production history, meaning we go back and see how the first production was made in some sort of significant production sense. Just to look at how Macbeth has evolved since 1606 - 400 years. We'll go back and look at different journals and different reviews.

For Macbeth, List has focused his investigation on superstitions of Shakespeare's day.

List: I like to go back to some of the original writing of the time. One that I found interesting is that James I wrote his book "Demonology" in 1597. He goes through and does a through discussion of witches, the role of witches in society and why more women than men are witches - and their power. And he even goes specifically into who is susceptible to being bewitched. We know that Shakespeare tried in some respect to ingratiate himself to King James.

For more about Macbeth and the role of a dramaturg, log onto Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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