Since it was first introduced to the world, theater has experienced both good and bad eras, including the Golden Age, the Dark Age, Decadence, Death, and, after many centuries and conflicts, the Renaissance. Many individuals think that the primary causes of every incident are the deeds of ideologies that have developed in every period to subjugate theater by molding it to suit their own ideas.
Concerns are acknowledged as the main factor in bringing art out of the middle ages and saving it from extinction. Like any other nations, Ethiopia has a rich artistic tradition and talented artists who offer a variety of techniques and strategies for the growth of theater.
Particularly in our nation, the technique has started to be used professionally as one of the professions within the theater arts. It has also received scientific interpretation and examination throughout the world, particularly in Germany.
Dramaturgy has been recognized for over two centuries, but because the area is always developing, a universally agreed-upon definition is difficult to come by. However, most artists agree on “the art and method of the theater; dramatics.”
Cordullo, a well-known theater scholar, also emphasizes dramaturgy as a science that necessitates rigorous examination and sensitivity. It is an art, a technique, and a science; it is a career, and the professional is known as a dramaturg.
A dramaturg is someone who is knowledgeable about theatrical history, philosophy, and practice and who assists a director, designer, playwright, or actor in bringing their ideas to life in a performance.
Other scholars, however, expanded on this definition by focusing on the functions of the dramaturg. “Dramaturgs frequently assist directors in developing the production concept and providing an extra set of informed eyes and ears during the rehearsal process to assist the director in properly realizing that vision.” They also work to enrich the audience’s experience of the play by creating lobby displays, public websites, and program notes.
Many theater professionals think that dramaturgs can play an important role in the industry. But what exactly should that position be?
Scholars all across the world continue to discuss the role and potential purposes of theater, while the profession is promoted and involved in a variety of performance forms and theater development initiatives.
Dramaturgs take on various jobs and work on various aspects of putting on a play on a regular basis. Despite the fact that many unclear employment specifics have been provided for a long time, England, Australia, and the United States are among the countries in the world that are attempting to bring the sector to the level of association.
These powerful institutions have examined the actual situations in each country and conducted extensive research into how the rest of the globe lives and functions.
The majority of a dramaturg’s primary responsibilities include advocacy, critique, promotion, mentoring, documentation, research, adaptation, and translation, literary studies, communication, collaboration, management, and other disciplines.
According to many studies, the relay was followed by the main or frontline actors or dramatists of different eras, who were able to enhance the level of art and the value it can give in each century.
We can trace the evolution and roles of the theory by studying the key works of the dramaturgs who followed Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, who was a philosopher, dramatist, publicist and art critic, and a representative of the Enlightenment era. This includes Ludwig Tieck, Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Miiller, and Robert Brustein. Early specialists in our country include Matthewos Bekele, Eyuel Yohannes, and Melaku Ashagere, whose actions are similar to those of dramaturgs.
Writing, acting, directing, conducting research, editing and rewriting, discovering new ideas and talents, mentoring juniors, advocating the art, and working alongside the creative and technical crew in the production to question, critique, support, and guide the vision for the production are all aspects of the work of the above three practitioners.
Dramaturgy in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, there is still no comprehensive theoretical or systematic framework for dramaturgy. There are no norms, models, or defined criteria for dramaturgical practices. It is also difficult to find a recognized body to provide vital networking, professional development, or regulation of a dramaturg’s practice.
Understanding the concept of dramaturgy and acknowledging it as one of the most essential aspects of theater arts is highly beneficial to the art, the artist, and the country if it is incorporated into the framework of our theaters and put into reality by putting trained specialists in the area.
It allows, among other things, historical, traditional, and archeological works to be based on scientific research; it replaces the boring style of theatrical advertising with new strategies; and it allows the art of theater, which is only done in Addis Ababa, to be performed in different parts of the country in an organized and unified manner.
Dramaturgy, in the process of creating a playbill (program note) for each theater production, not only advertises the theater and its professionals but also tries to preserve the artistic contributions and histories of the professionals who are participating in the piece, whether creatively or technically.
It also helps by letting translators who are interested in and knowledgeable about our country use different translation methods and strategies to adapt plays by foreign authors that are relevant to our country’s cultural traditions and system.
A dramaturg can assist characters in being displayed in a way that is important and acceptable for the time period in which the story is set by conducting research. They also document and refer to the entire production process, allowing people from all over the world to learn about our country’s theater works.
It also gives a critical critique of theater productions. This can foster a culture of critique that is not present in our society, particularly in the arts. Dramaturgy, by acting as an eagle eye or logical eye, allows the directors to focus solely on the creative art and execute a successful job. As a result, it is feasible to see how the field will benefit art, artists, and Ethiopia if it is adopted in our country’s theater activity.
(Ephrem Lemma Belayneh is a lecturer and the Head of the Film and Media Studies Unit at Addis Ababa University’s CPVA School of Theatre Arts. He can be reached at [email protected].)
Contributed by Ephrem Lemma