Saturday, July 7, 2007

Dramaturg? Dramaturge? Dramaturd? DRAMATURD?!?!!?? Confessions of a Dramaturg (no "e," no "turd.")

Now, gentle reader, I know you've heard me say before that we dramaturgs don't get out much. We also get upset about truly weird stuff, often related to semantics, and send furious emails back and forth about them.

Here’s a case in point.

A few weeks ago, our much beloved and extremely cool publications coordinator, Stefanie, sent the following email to Susie Falk (Cal Shakes' Director of Marketing), to me, and to my trusty Associate Dramaturg, Dan Venning:

----- Original Message -----
From: Stefanie Kalem
To: Susie Falk
Cc: Laura Hope ; Dan Venning
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2007 6:34 PM
Subject: dramaturg? dramaturge?

Did you know that Merriam-Webster considers "dramaturge" to be the more appropriate spelling?

Stefanie Kalem
Publications Coordinator
California Shakespeare Theater


_____________________


Seems like an innocent enough question…or so you'd think. She just wanted to make sure we were spelling things correctly in our programs and on our web site. Little did she realize she had opened Pandora's Box – the very topic that makes Dramaturgs (no "e") look up from their books with bleary eyes and go from mild-mannered, sweetly geeky Dr. Jekyll types to full-blown, enraged, academic-evidence citing Ms. or Mr. Hydes.

I was in New Orleans dealing with furniture movers when the email came through, so Dan Venning was the first to respond. And respond he did, with this:

------Original Message-----
From Dan Venning
To: Stefanie Kalem, Laura Hope, Susie Falk
Subject: Re: dramaturg? dramaturge?

Hi Stefanie:

I'd heard that before, but I consider it to be just plain wrong. It's something that the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs (no "e") continue to have a field day about periodically on their listserv, a wonderful source for information and the occasional flame war (I occasionally post there). Their website is www.lmda.org.

 Similarly, after a looksee, the OED has an entry for "dramaturge" but none for dramaturg. Whoopee.

 "Dramaturg" (no "e") comes from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, often considered the first dramaturg; he worked for the National Theatre in Hamburg in the 18th C., and wrote the influential Hamburg Dramaturgy, a collection of essays on German theatre of the time. I consider myself a dramaturg: I do research and development, advise the director, and advocate for the play.

 "Dramaturge" comes from the French; in French it means "playwright." 

For these reasons, I'd strongly encourage using the spelling without an "e." We should be working to correct those entries in the dictionaries not kowtowing to them.

Dan
----------


When I finally finished with the movers and checked my email and saw Stefanie's original message and Dan's reply, I could not stop laughing. I'm glad Dan got to do the dirty work on this one. I get so weary of playing bad cop on the proper spelling of dramaturg (no "e"). Since Dan did such a fabulous job of clearing up the matter and expressing proper dramaturgical outrage, I simply gave the following reply:

-----Original Message-----
From: Laura Hope
To: Dan Venning, Stefanie Kalem, Susie Falk
Subject: Re: dramaturg? dramaturge?

I totally concur, and I mention this battle when I lecture on Lessing and the history of the Dramaturg (no "e").

xxoo,

L
----------------


Dan was, as ever, correct and thorough in his response. I just love Dan. He kills me. Poor Stefanie will probably never ask another question about the field of dramaturgy ever again. Susie wisely did not respond to any of the emails. She's familiar with a dramaturg's (no "e") tendency to get his or her panties in a twist over semantics. Last season, Susie had to field an extraordinarily lengthy and totally neurotic email from me late, late, late one night before a publishing deadline over the title of my article on Shylock for the "Merchant of Venice" program. It could not have been pretty to read over the internet my sincere agony as I vacillated and futzed over the most appropriate title. People get uptight over Shylock, you see, and I wanted a catchy, but not anger-inducing title. Susie handled it with grace and humor. She's a keeper. It ain't always easy dealing with us dramaturgs. We are a testy lot.

Even as I write this blog, I am enraged and frustrated by the Word program on my computer. It keeps insisting on auto-correcting the word "dramaturg" (no "e") as I type away, replacing it with the totally-incorrect "dramaturge." I keep having to go back and change it, and then the stupid spell checker goes and puts an ugly, accusing red line under the correctly-spelled "dramaturg" (no "e," dammit). I am outraged. I will, however, take it on the chin, as always, and continue to fight the good fight.

Not everybody takes this topic seriously, unfortunately. Lynne Soffer, our lovely and talented dialogue/text coach for "Man and Superman" insists on calling us "Dramaturkeys." We are not amused. No. Seriously. We are NOT amused. I should not advise accosting a dramaturg by calling out "Hey, Dramaturkey." Homicide, I tell thee….(Can you guess from which Shakespeare play that little phrase was lifted?)

Then there's my pop. I love the man, even though he inadvertently invented an unfortunate new title for what I do at Cal Shakes. I had just finished updating my CV and showed it to pop, so he could "oooh" and "ahhh" with proper paternal pride. He looked up from the lengthy, and (I thought) impressive document and asked me with total innocence, "What exactly is a Resident Dramaturd?" Yep. Drama-TURD. My mother burst into peels of girlish, southern drawly giggles. My ego immediately deflated and I was silent. Realizing he must have somehow screwed up, he said, "What? What'd I say? I really want to know what she does at that Shakespeare theatre."

And there you have it. Dramaturg. Dramaturge. Dramaturkey. DRAMATURD? We are the Rodney Dangerfield's of the theatrical profession: no respect. Nobody knows what we do. Nobody can spell us. And I just spent a stupidly large chunk of time blogging about this issue from my hot, ventilation-challenged room while a renegade wasp buzzes menacingly about my desk. What am I doing? Geez. "The Totally True and Pathetic Confessions of a Drama-what?"

I think I need to get out more. And Dan does, too. It's an occupational hazard. Kind, gentle, reader: pity us.

49 comments:

Pamplemousse said...

I love reading your blog! What a delightfully funny writer you are. Please keep blogging for the season!

Fanny Sink said...

When I first started narrating shadow puppet theater shows for Teatro Penumbra, I insisted on greeting all of the puppet-handlers with a hearty, "HI, POOPETEERS!" at the beginning of every rehearsal. That flew for the first half of the few rehearsals for hat show ("Carmen"), but stinkeyes and grumbles from behind the screen (not to mention some unnecessarily noisy puppet choreography from time to time) had beaten the greeting out of me by the first performance.

Interestingly, though, the next time I did a show with them (the superior "Vasalisa the Beautiful") one of the poopeteers (dammit) from the previous show actually told me she missed her nickname.

And they say I'M the strange one.

Hidden City Kate said...

Thank you for the grove talk yesterday, and for the insightful blog entries.

We truly enjoyed the show. I may have to come again for an evening performance to see how those rocks in hell look in the dark!

david said...

Enjoy New Orleans. It is a great town. I spent a weekend there when I was stationed in Mississippi while in the Air Force. I would stay away from multiple Hurricanes. I think that is what the drink was called. I honestly do not remember the name of the drink, but I do remember not fealing well for a couple of days after.

Man and Superman was well done.

The lady who did the grove talk did well, but not as well as Dr. Hope.

Good luck at Loyala Univ.
Dave and Nancy

Mead said...

Dr. L,

I'm just catching up to your hilarious WORDS OF HOPE a month and a day after this particular posting. Thanks for bringing some humor to this ancient silly business. I actually consider the use of "dramaturgE" something of a shibboleth -- if someone uses it, s/he probably doesn't know what s/he's talking about.

Maybe that's a tad draconian. But then I'm a tad tired of informing the comedians that I've actually heard the "dramaturd" joke once or twice before.

Anyhow, thanks again for fighting the good fight, and doing it with such goodwill and panache.

Cheers,
Mead

Post Colonial Child said...

Now that's funny. I always wondered how to distinguish between the two. But at least you've clarified how I can Identify Male Dramaturges from Male Dramaturgs (no "e"). Male Dramaturgs aparently wear panties!
;-)
Lol.

Thanks for your post, my students were bombarding me with this question - insisting, the little smarta55e5, that no such word (the one without the 'e') existed in the dictionary.

A furious search later revealed your lovely blog entry. Thank you, thank you, THANK you.

J.

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Her Lady Disdain said...

I've been working with Shakespeare Santa Cruz and the latest addition to the problem of how to refer to and spell our preferred profession is *drumroll please*:
Dramanerd.
Actually, I'm really okay with this one.