New major incorporates drama, literature studies


Drama, literature, history and culture will come together in the form of a new major at Webster University — theater studies and dramaturgy.

Created under Dorothy Englis, Conservatory of Theatre Arts chair, the BA major adheres to students interested in the process, the study, the production and the inner-workings of theater.

Theater professor Gad Guterman said the demand for dramaturgs is rising in the theater world, and Webster recognized its appeal and potential. The idea to introduce a dramaturgy major has been considered for several years among the university and, when the decision was final, Guterman was hired specifically to help execute the new major.

“I’m the person who kind of put the ribbon on the gift,” he said.

To adhere to such an intensive career, both new and existing classes at Webster will be offered. Though the major was approved in late October, classes won’t be offered until fall 2012, and even more classes will be added in fall 2013. Collectively, classes look to cover all facets of a dramaturg through courses in English, theater, writing, art and music, ranging anywhere from London Theatre to Literary Criticism.

But what, exactly, is the job of a dramaturg? Guterman said the job varies — “ask theater professionals what a dramaturg is and you’ll get 11 different answers,” — but that it’s really a culmination of duties.

“It’s sort of a catch-all position,” he said. “Dramaturgy can mean a theater expert. Often times they’re working very directly with playwrights to develop new plays. Often times they’re working very closely with a director. Dramaturgs serve as the expert of whatever concept a director might have. They’re creating a bridge between the production and the audience.”

English professor Michael Erickson, who will be teaching select courses under the major, gave his take on the job of a dramaturg.

“Often they’re employed by a theater to read classic plays, do research on plays, help to interpret a play and the writing to actors,” Erickson said. “It’s a very hands-on, literary analysis kind of job. (Webster’s) creation of this program reflects a growing interest and need of dramaturgy in American theater.”

Peter Sargent, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said a dramaturge is mostly responsible for representing, advocating and ensuring integrity of theater writing. Sargent believes the dramaturgy classes to be offered, especially those involving dramatic literature, adhere to Webster students.

“I think (the major) gives more students the chance to be invigorated by the literature of theater,” he said.

Though constructed through the Conservatory, theater studies and dramaturgy is offered to those who aren’t part of the respective program.

“We needed to make sure students can still get the skills,” Guterman said. “The new courses we offer sort of tap into the Conservatory, but students don’t necessarily have to be a part of the Conservatory. These will be classes that will be available to anyone at Webster.”

However, there are specific requirements for students to take on the major. An admission essay and interview is mandatory, as well as a practicum to complete the major. The practicum, which works much like an internship, would allow students to gain hands-on experience in the field. Requirements also include  studying abroad to better understand theater in other parts of the world.

Those involved in creating and fine-tuning the major agree theater studies and dramaturgy will be a perfect addition to the liberal arts curriculum.

“The skills of a dramaturge are the skills of a liberal arts student,” Guterman said.

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