1st Edition

The Dramaturgy of History

By Tom Bryant Copyright 2024

    In this book, dramaturg Tom Bryant shares with readers and writers his insights into the process of historical adaptation.

    The book uses case studies from Bryant's collaborations with playwrights on successful Broadway and regional productions to work through the fundamental questions of historical adaptation: Why do you want to adapt history? For what purpose? What is your approach? How does that approach affect the portrayal of events? How does that choice by the playwright and the dramaturg then determine the framing and focus in the story, the selection of the key events and the choice of characters? What is the meaning you want the audience to take away from the events? How is your adaptation of past events relevant to contemporary times?  In addition, the author explores the moral and ethical responsibilities involved for the dramaturg and the playwright in the adaptation of history and how issues of diversity, equity and inclusion impact the presentation of historical material.

    This is an indispensable resource for anyone whose craft brings them to the task of adapting historical material for the stage—in postgraduate work, teaching or professional practice.

    1. Why Adapt History to the Stage?  2. Framing the Story  3. Choosing the Events- Finding the Nuggets  4. Plot and Structure  5. Character: Translating Historical Figures into Dramatic Characters  6. Theme- Focusing the Meaning of the Story  7. Finding Relevance to Contemporary Issues  8. Racial Sensitivity, inclusion and Cultural Appropriation  9. Dramaturgical Research and Development Process in Rehearsal and Production


    Tom Bryant is known for his work as a dramaturg in the development of new plays on Broadway and in America’s regional theaters, most prominently Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, which won the Tony award for best play in 2014, and The Kentucky Cycle, which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1992. Other notable productions include Lisa Loomer’s Roe, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Arena Stage and Berkeley Repertory Theater, which won the Pen Center Literary Award for Drama in 2017. He served as head of the theater program at Crafton Hills College from 2004 to 2018 and currently serves on the faculty in the Department of Theater and New Dance at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, USA.

    “Tom Bryant is our field’s leading dramaturg, especially when it comes to creating gripping plays rooted in United States history. His brilliance shines through every chapter of this book with his open-hearted collaborative nature, his uncanny ability to raise dramatic stakes, and his clear-eyed focus.”

    Bill Rauch, Artistic Director, Perelman Performing Arts Center, USA


    “This is it. When a significant art form lacks the literature to build crucial and necessary works, It takes a supple and very experienced mind to connect the important dots. This book does that. American playwrighting is deficient in its ability to take on the history of the country. By exploring some of the most significant players in that field doing groundbreaking work, Tom Bryant opens up for all of us the work in creating plays about our history.”

    Vincent Murphy, Professor at Theater Emory, USA

    “Tom Bryant has been in the trenches, working intimately with wonderful playwrights who have benefited by his insight, research, intelligence and passion. He is a dramaturg who elevates our whole profession, as at home in a research library as he is in a rehearsal room. This book is a wonderful resource for those who want to be in the room where it happens.”

    Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theater and Professor of Dramatic Writing and Arts and Public Policy, New York University, USA