Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy offers useful and entertaining answers to the confounding questions: “What, exactly, is dramaturgy, and what does a dramaturg do?” According to Michael Mark Chemers, dramaturgs are the scientists of the theater world—their primary responsibility is to query the creative possibilities in every step of the production process, from play selection to costume design, and then research the various options and find ways to transform that knowledge into useful ideas. To say that dramaturgs are well-rounded is an understatement: those who choose this profession must possess an acute aesthetic sensibility in combination with an extensive knowledge of theater history and practice, world history, and critical theory, and they must be able to collaborate with every member of the creative team and theater administration.
Ghost Light is divided into three sections. Part 1, “Philosophy,” describes what dramturgs do, presents a detailed history of dramaturgy, and summarizes many of the critical theories needed to analyze and understand dramatic texts. “Analysis” teaches the two essential skills of a dramaturg: reading and writing. It includes a “12-step program for script analysis” along with suggestions about how to approach various genres and play structures. “Practice,” the third part, delves into the relationships that dramaturgs forge and offers useful advice about collaborating with other artists. It also includes ideas for audience outreach initiatives such as marketing and publicity plans, educational programs, talkbacks, blogs, and program notes and lobby displays, all of which are often the responsibility of the dramaturg.
Ghost Light was written with undergraduate students in mind and is perfectly suited for the classroom (each chapter concludes with a series of practical exercises that can be used as course assignments). However, dramaturgy is a skill that is essential to all theater practitioners, not just professional or aspiring dramaturgs, making Ghost Light a valuable addition to all theater libraries.