What Is Dramaturgy? attempts to document, by way of articles, statements, and bibliographies, the dramaturg’s profession, which began with Lessing in Germany in the second half of the eighteenth century and was instituted in the United States two hundred years later during the rise of the regional theatre movement. As critics-in-residence (also known as literary managers), dramaturgs perform a variety of tasks: broadly speaking, they select and prepare playtexts for performance, advise directors, and educate the audience; they are translators, theatre historians, public lecturers, even «artistic consciences.» Dramaturgy literally means «the craft or the techniques of dramatic composition considered collectively», and in a sense the dramaturg is the dramatist’s representative or advocate in the theatre. That is, he is the guardian of the text – new as well as old – and therefore a person whose work is necessary for the revival of dramatic art in our time.
What Is Dramaturgy? is dedicated in the end not only to promoting the dramaturg’s function, but also to anticipating his creation of an intellectually illumined American theatre.