DePaul University Theatre School > Conservatory > Undergraduate Conservatory > Dramaturgy/ Criticism > Dramaturgy/ Criticism FAQ

Dramaturgy/ Criticism FAQ

Do you get to do dramaturgy at DePaul or is dramaturgy something you just study?

Dramaturgy is definitely something to do here at DePaul. We have a lot of classes that teach us what we should or could do to really help a production grow. Then we get to work on a production through production practice to try these ideas out. It’s great because you get to develop your own style and dramaturgical philosophy while building a great portfolio and resume. Some of the dramaturgy students say, “we receive building blocks” here that help us organize and do dramaturgy not just think about dramaturgy. ​

What does a dramaturg do?

At DePaul we get to do a lot. No one here thinks all we do is Xerox, do research and stay in the library. Nope, we get to participate in all aspects of the production—from the design meetings, to auditions to rehearsals. We often discusses the production with actors, designers, directors, build walls of dramaturgy (large boards with images and other cool dramaturgical stuff), moderate post-show discussions, write study guides, create actor packets, cut Shakespeare, lobby displays/pre-show entertainment, dramaturgy notes. The short answer: we are idea designers for our production practices. ​

Who teaches dramaturgy?

Everyone who teaches at The Theatre School is working in the theatre. It’s amazing. Nothing they tell you is just from a book. They actually do it and talk about how they faced challenges in the rehearsal hall or on stage. It’s really great. The Dramaturgy professors work in new-play development in Chicago and across the country, TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences), write books and criticism for online magazines like Slate. Learn more about Rachel Shteir​, Head of Dramaturgy/Criticism.

What skills will I learn?

How to discuss a play with an audience/playwright/production team; how to provide useful information and expand the play for the designers, actors and director. We do a lot to develop our critical thinking skills through script analysis and studying the histories of dramatic literature and dramatic theory. ​

Do the students get to work on productions or do they only assist the professors?

Here we get to do the work. Sure, we have project advisors, but we get to do the research, go to the meetings, design our dramaturgy and actor packets. It’s great! There are something like 20 dramaturgical assignments a year and we can choose to work on a classic, new play or TYA play. The Dramaturgy faculty does work on productions to contribute to the school’s production life, but most of the time the students get to do the work. ​

What are production practices?

Any production you work on here is graded; it’s a class. And so, the class is called Production Practice. ​

How are these projects assigned?

The season is announced, we choose the plays we'd like to do, seniors have seniority, and then the majors and then the steal dramatugs. But trust us, Rachel works hard to have us work on shows we’re excited about. While you’re here you must do at least one Showcase and one Chicago Playworks production. But know this: you can choose shows based on your interests…so, if you’re into Theatre for Young Audiences, you’ll have many opportunities; if you’re into the classics, there will be ample productions. ​

What kind of internships will I be doing?

You have a lot of options, but a lot of us intern in a theatre’s literary management or dramaturgy or new-play development department. Some of us spend time working with the Education departments or editors at publishing houses. There’s a lot of flexibility, just be sure to speak to your advisor before committing to an internship. ​

I'm interested in theatre for young audiences. Does this program offer TYA-related classes and shows?

Yes we do! We have a great TYA production program called Chicago Playworks. As dramaturgs we create the study guides and run the Ice Cream Social discussion. There are also TYA literature courses (TYA in the United States and International TYA). Faculty member, Ernie Nolan, currently serves as the Vice President of Communications of TYA/USA​ (a national organization for TYA artists and theatres) so we learn a lot about cool programs and internships everywhere.).

I'm interested in new play development. What type of opportunities are there to work with playwrights?

Yes there are! We have a class that helps get us prepared to work with writers, New Play dramaturgy, and we also have some cool school events like Wrights of Spring (a festival of new plays written by DePaul playwrights), and the New Playwrights Series, the major school production of a new play. We also have New Play Workshop, which you can take as a dramaturg or writer. And there are internships, too. ​

Do you graduate with a strong resume and portfolio?

Yes. Because you get to intern at great theatres in Chicago and around the country, work on a number of productions here at The Theatre School and create your own dramaturgical materials including published program notes, the dramaturgs have a great resume. We even have professionals come in to view our work annually at Dramaturgy Day (click here for photos), which helps us a lot. And every fall, we have Portfolio Day, which is when our work from the previous year is reviewed and we get personal letters that help us focus on specific new things for the current year. ​

What kind of job opportunities are there for dramaturgy graduates?

Dramaturgs spend a lot of time writing, analyzing, researching and helping to connect a lot of ideas together. These skills translate into a lot of cool jobs. Some dramaturgs are literary managers, production dramaturgs, write for magazines, or become theatre or arts critics, teachers, educational directors, artistic directors, directors or playwrights. Some dramaturgs even work as music/dance dramaturgs, develop new plays, even work for NPR…there possibilities are endless! ​

Does the Dramaturgy Department or The Theatre School help Seniors find jobs?

The Theatre School supports graduating seniors in a lot of ways, including a program called Graduate Showcase​. Any Theatre School senior in good standing can choose to participate. Showcase for Theatre Studies students takes place in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The New York and Los Angeles trip includes small-group informational meetings and interviews at regional theatres, production houses and other arts related organizations. Our Showcase visits have included: Theatre Communications Group, Bret Adams, Ltd. (a theatrical agency), Playwrights Horizons, The Public Theatre, The Dramatists Guild, Sundance Theatre Institute, Disney Theme Parks division and Center Theater Group.

Dramaturgy sounds cool, but I'm also interested in performance and design. Are there opportunities to learn about these aspects of production?

YES! At DePaul the dramaturg is involved in design meetings, participates in all aspects of production. We also take design, directing, and performance classes, which help make us well-rounded theatre artists able to contribute to all aspects of the production. ​