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Ghost Light

Ghost Light

An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy

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Michael Mark Chemers, with a foreword by Faedra Chatard Carpenter


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
280 pages, 6 x 9, 2 illustrations

Theater in the Americas


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About the Book

A new edition of the celebrated introduction to dramaturgy training and practice
Since its release in 2010, Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy has become the international standard for dramaturgy training and practice. The first textbook introduced students to the “ghost light” model of dramaturgy—a creatively engaged, artistically vibrant approach that draws on extensive knowledge of theatre history, practice, and theory—and this second edition brings the conversation up to the present.
Over three parts, author and theory creator Michael Mark Chemers helps students explore the world of the dramaturg. Part 1 describes what dramaturgs do, presents a detailed history of dramaturgy, and summarizes many of the critical theories needed to analyze and understand dramatic texts. Part 2 teaches students to read, write, and analyze scripts through a twelve-step program with suggestions about how to approach various genres and play structures. The final part delves into the relationships 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, program notes and lobby displays, and more.   
Perfectly suited for the undergraduate theatre classroom, this holistic guide includes chapter exercises for students to practice the skills as they learn. The new edition also incorporates recent theory and new resources on multimedia performance and dramaturgy in the digital age. As the field of dramaturgy continues to shift and change, this new edition of Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy prepares theatre students and practitioners to create powerful, relevant performances of all types.


Michael Mark Chemers founded the Production Dramaturgy Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. He is a professor of dramatic literature and theatre arts and the chair of the Department of Performance, Play & Design at the University of California Santa Cruz. His works include The Monster in Theatre History: This Thing of Darkness and Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show, winner of the ATHE Outstanding Book Award (Honorable Mention) of 2009.


“With wit, intelligence, and generosity, Michael Mark Chemers offers students a wide range of concrete, practical, and immediate entry points to the work of the dramaturg from classics to new plays, devised theatre, adaptations, and more. Grounded in history, theory, and textual analysis, this comprehensive handbook underscores with great effect the centrality of curiosity, questioning, creativity, collaboration, and expertise to dramaturgy and theatre making as a whole.”—Geoff Proehl, author of Toward a Dramaturgical Sensibility

“The first edition of Ghost Light carefully broke down the role of the dramaturg and provided an intelligent and accessible perspective on the underpinnings of dramaturgy. Chemers now gifts us with a revised and updated text that carefully considers radical changes of the past decade and blind spots that can come up when writing. Particularly, this new edition addresses societal strife and the pervasive systems of oppression that have informed the recent past that theatre studies must address.”—Analola Santana, coeditor of Theatre and Cartographies of Power: Repositioning the Latina/o Americas

Ghost Light is the best book I can recommend to someone looking for a book that covers the history, theory, and practice of dramaturgy in one place. I never teach a Dramaturgy class without it! I appreciate Chemers updating this important contribution to the field to wrestle with and open up an academic and practical discussion about how cultural competency and identity play an ever-changing role in the way dramaturgy functions in art-making.”—Martine Kei Green-Rogers, past president of LMDA
“This second edition of Ghost Light offers welcome updates to what has become a trusted introductory textbook for the study of dramaturgy in the United States. Featuring additions to his “theory capsules” as well as new approaches to the “Twelve Steps,” the insight Chemers offers in Ghost Light is both practical and aspirational, a feat he accomplishes without losing his engaging, lively style of writing that at once demonstrates dramaturgy while explaining the long history and crucial role of the dramaturg in theatre.”—Jane Barnette, author of Adapturgy: The Dramaturg’s Art and Theatrical Adaptation
“For over a decade, Ghost Light has welcomed newcomers with open arms to the rigorous building blocks that constitute contemporary dramaturgical practice. With this second edition, Chemers embraces the latest developments in an ever-diversifying field with his trademark humor, humility, and abiding love for this vocation we share. This book has earned an essential place in every dramaturg's library.”—Ken Cerniglia, editor of  Newsies: Stories of the Unlikely Broadway Hit