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Contentious Dramaturgies in the countries of the Arab Spring (The Case of Morocco)

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‘Alternative Dramaturgies’ in contemporary Arab theatres have become highly obsessed by memory politics, re-framing our preconceived questions related to both classical and modern dramaturgies. Dramaturgy is an inclusive category that refers to the ‘composition of a play,’ or its internal structure. However, the processes of analysis often called dramaturgical analysis are deeply rooted in the practice of dramaturgy. Ever since Hamburgische Dramaturgie the term has been broadly formalized in theatre circles. For Lessing, dramaturgy was framed according to a compositional logic based upon the supremacy of the text. It was conceived of as “the technique (or poetics) of dramatic art, which seeks to establish principles of play construction”[ii].

Contemporary theorists, on the other hand, seem to emphasize the non-literary composites of dramaturgy. Since the 1960s, performances “have repeatedly disconnected individual theatrical tools from their larger contexts.”[iii] The re-appearance of what Fischer-Lichte calls ‘emergent phenomena’ further undermines the production of meaning through theatrical representation. Thus, alternative dramaturgies might also suggest new ways of interrogating theatrical presence and negotiating our roles as spectators and critics, just as they undermine the production of meaning through representation. They tend to disintegrate neo-classical notions of character-dramaturgy and unity by disrupting their underlying dualism within performance. Now the practice of dramaturgy is so vast and complex that attempts at redefining the field have become a difficult undertaking. Dramaturgy is played out as “an exercise in holding things together.”[iv]

Alternative dramaturgies increasingly fuse contemporary performance cultures with elements from the multimedia landscape and visual-arts cultures, often with intense consequences for perceptions of the temporal, spatial and memorial dimensions of performance. The advent of new media has profoundly changed dramaturgical practice in the last decades. The interweaving between media composition and dramaturgy is more than a rupture with traditional drama and its textual overtones, for ‘mediaturgy’ signals a shift in critical perspective better attuned to network cultures. “Should we hope for a new Lessing, a new Brecht, so as to get out of a functional, sophisticated dramaturgy […] closed in on itself”, asked Pavis in his opening keynote to Performing Tangier Conference in 2014. Can we return to the humanistic moment when theatre began to be conscious of its powers and invented dramaturgy?

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