Let me note for the record that I love dramaturgs. I think they're little-understood and underappreciated, not unlike leeks. My first exposure to the frank and open practice of dramaturgy occurred when I was an intern in a literary office, where the hectic stress of daily life -- arguably endemic not so much to literary management as to anything that gets done in an office -- led my superiors to coin the term "traumaturgy," which I subsequently stole and used as a title for one of my early plays, a comedy about a dramaturg, which hasn't been produced very often, because it is a play about a dramaturg.Still, point is: dramaturgs. I dig 'em.Still, in developmental contexts there can be a tendency, I think, even among the most brilliant and insightful dramaturgs, to focus so exhaustively on the condition of the script that they lose sight of what makes for a great show. They really are concerned, God bless 'em, with the integrity of the script, the needs of the script, what the script is doing and what it's not doing and what the script wants to be -- in that rehearsal room they are the Lorax, they speak for the text -- and occasionally it seems like that degree of loving and microscopic attention might come at the expense of how well the script functions on its feet as a play. I say this as someone whose ass has been saved many times by the attentive intervention of dramaturgs, so I do recognize how crucial they are. I also say it as someone who's worn the dramaturgical hat myself -- though not as often nor as credibly as the talented people I've had the good fortune to work with -- and has myself attempted to inflict unnecessary fixes on others' scripts. It was my job to find things to give notes on, so I gave notes on everything. We don't know a lot about her background and family, maybe fill in some of that detail here. This scene plays great but it's a little unclear what it means in the play as a whole. These were sensible comments there at the table, and 100% true -- I was totally earning my dramaturgical keep -- but I neglected to consider whether the eventual audience gave any kind of a shit about the character's background and family, or whether achieving greater clarity with that one scene would actually give audience members less to talk about on the way home.It kind of comes with the territory.From the playwright's perspective, it's like going to the doctor for a checkup and the doctor identifies a few things that really need attention and a few other things that really aren't going to impair your quality of life, but what's the doctor going to do, not mention these things? She's a doctor, and it's not like the oath included a clause that said "First, ignore some stuff." So now you're shelling out co-pays and clogging your schedule with labs and follow-ups and things really kind of would have been better if you hadn't gone to the doctor at all. Except for those other, bigger things that would have really fucked you up if she hadn't found and fixed them. So it's good that you went to the doctor. Apart from these other tests and things.I guess I'm hypothesizing that looking at a play as closely as a dramaturg is supposed to is going to turn up problems that need fixing and problems that don't. And maybe that second category consists of problems that, counterintuitively, are better left untreated. I've gone into developmental situations with a script that was baggy and unfocused and problematic and emerged with one that was sleeker and streamlined and efficient, and in these cases I've always regretted shaving away all the weird craggy idiosyncratic bits. I needed the play to get better, but I didn't need to make it that much better. I needed to fix the halting, troubled, bloated guts of the thing but I didn't need to spackle and sand its every gap, didn't need to polish its outer layer to such a fine, unblemished sheen. (You'd think I could just go back and undo the stuff I wanted to undo and keep the rest, but that's harder to do than you might think, which either means that plays are complicated organic structures of interdependent strands or that I'm not as good at rewriting as other people are. Or both.)Taylor Mac has a great line in his brilliant recent manifesto: "I believe all plays are flawed except the extremely boring ones." He goes on to say "So stop trying to make my play perfect," though that sounds more confrontational than I feel about the thing. I've had a handful of nightmare experiences with notes and feedback but none of them involved directors or dramaturgs; if anything, my experiences with those creatures have been characterized by extreme sensitivity and a compulsive reiteration of the mantra "You don't have to take any of these notes if you don't want to," indicating a general awareness that the dramaturgical process is diagnostic but not prescriptive. (It also suggests a perception that playwrights as a species are fragile, highly suggestible, and/or easily offended. I assume they have some experiential basis for this impression. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN IT DOESN'T HURT!)The burden is on the playwright, obviously, to take action on those notes that will improve the play and ignore the others, but would dramaturgy at its most effective produce only the former notes and leave out the latter? In my experience, dramaturgs routinely defer to playwrights in terms of who actually has authority over a script, but do they typically envision themselves as realtors -- showing their clients an array of options while knowing that most of them won't be right for them -- or do they personally feel that addressing each and every one of their notes would in fact result in a superior draft of the script? I'm pretty sure that's how I felt about my notes back when I was recklessly practicing dramaturgy. Of course, in my case, I was -- as I so often am, in so very many contexts -- wrong.In the meantime, if someone would be kind enough to dramaturg this essay, I'd appreciate it. I know it lacks theatricality and momentum, and the main character is wildly unsympathetic.