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"Theatre consists in this: in making live representations of reported or invented happenings between human beings, and doing so with a view to entertainment." [Brecht, 1964, 180]

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Stage Directing Theory
Directing Theory: pre-text, text and super-text = playscript + spectacle + public
"Wrong Subjects": Theology, Resurrect, Manifesto, Froms of Spectator

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Theatre w/Anatoly: intro pages
Classes: Aesthetics

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Part I : One

Making a Spectator: 1 - 2 - 3
Shakespeare -- MY SHOWS directory
There are several terms we need to discuss in order to move further:

Chronotope -- time-space unity, when time or space can't be seen separately.

Conflict -- discovered thesis and antithesis of the motion. Emotional and physical.

Context -- The environment in which we perceive and evaluate specitic perceltual phenomena. Every single aesthetic element operates within, and is dependent upon, the context of all others.
Contextualism -- a branch of philosophy that includes, rather than excludes, the enviroment (context) in the analysis of art. It is in opposition to the isolationist aesthetics, which proposes that it is only the work of art that matters and not its context. The contextualistic concepts most important for applied media aesthetics are its strong connection between art and life, art as clarified and intensified experience, and the essential dualism of order and experience complexity. Dialogism (Bakhtin) takes it one more step further: the meaning is shaped only at the meeting of the work and the the receipient. Book is changed every time it is read. Live theatre is the most extreme case of dialogism.

Gelstalt -- A complete configuration that we perceive through psychological close. The perceived pattern is generally different from and often more complete than the sum of its parts. In a gestalt, all elements operate in relation to the whole.

Emotional Literacy -- Education of the senses. An ability to articulate emotional states and communicate them to others.

"Mass" -- All the matter an event contains.

Focal Point -- The major point of interest in a scene.

Focus -- 1. Directing audience attention to the focal point, 2. The Actor's visual point of reference, 3. Controlling the intense spot of light.

Story Time -- Subjective duration, different from the Plot Time.

Counterpoint -- A specific polyphonic technique in which the various voices (horizontal vectors) encounter each other. In media aesthetics, the musical counterpoint of note against note is extended into vector against vector.

Director -- Designer of the Chronotope of the Spectacle.

Dialectic -- The juxtaposition of opposining or contradictory statements or events in order to resolve the conflict into universally true axioms or and event synthesis (new event or idea).

Direction -- thought-feeling "line" of the stage experience.

Directing -- establishing the directions for audience.

Dramatic Agent -- Any object or action that contributes directly to the event's intensification.

Duration -- Refers to how long we perceive an event.

Event -- An actual happing : Stage Event v. Dramatic Event

* Depth of the Event -- the time dimenssion of the event.

* Mass and Inertia of the Event

* Constructing Stage Event

* Editing Stage Event

* Event Density -- The relative number of event details that occur within event complexity

* Event Energy and Intensity -- The relative energy and relative significance we perceive about a specific event.

Experience Intensity -- The number of relevant expreriences to wghich we are subjected simultaneously of in rapid succession, and their relative depths.

Space: 3D of the matter.

Subjective Time -- The duration we feel; also called psychological time. A qualitative measure.

Subjective Space -- transformed "place" by the actor and percived by the spectator as such.

Time: evolution of matter in space, when all three become PLACE.

Zero Time -- A high-magnitude subjective time vector that occupies a spot on the objective time continuum.

[ ]

[ Review of models of theatre ]

1. performer, audience, space, time. Text can be important, but is covered under 'performer' because it is the performer who delivers the text (when there is one). Theatre is an interaction between performer and audience in space and time. What kind of performer, or audience, or space, or time help to define different kinds of theatre.

2. Theatre is live - tenuous, transitory, momentary

3. Multi-track sound recording

4. The weave of actions (Eugenio Barba). "Actions are all the relationships, all the interactions between the characters, or between the characters and the lights, the sounds, the space. Actions are what work directly on the audience’s attention, on their understanding, their emotiveness …." It is the weaving together of all such actions that constitutes the ‘performance text’, in the sense of ‘texture’.

5. Theatre is ‘composed’ (cum-ponere = placed together)

6. Key terms: Dramatic Text: The author's written text - the script - sometimes further defined as that text spoken by actors during a production. Performance text: "all that is made visible or audible on stage" [Pavis, 1992 Crossroads, 25], and includes the dramatic text, the vocal delivery of that text, physicality, facial expression, the use of mask, light, movement, the use of space, costume and so on.

2004 & After


texts: Shrew04 + Oedipus X

in focus: StageMatrix

reading: see BOOKS pages in all directories


playsChekhov, Ibsen, Shakespeare

Theatre Semiotics (

'Semiotics can best be defined as a science dedicated to the study of the production of meaning in society' (Elam:1984:1).

It is the study of signs and their meaning, of how signs are constituted and how they communicate meaning. The study of signs and their meaning emphasises the language-like behaviour of all signification.

Mise en scène

The performance text is `all that is made visible or audible on stage' but is not perceived as a system of meaning or a system of signifying stage systems. It is a text that has not yet been ‘read’, that has not yet been engaged with by the spectator in a process of meaning-making. It is like the signifier without anyone to read it (me in that lecture theatre babbling on to myself)

The mise en scène is a more complex term, and is created by both production and reception. The term mise en scène is of course a French term, literally meaning 'the putting into the scene', or 'on stage'. It comes from Latin words missus in scaenam meaning 'the placement or sending onto the stage'. Patrice Pavis has described the mise en scène as "the utterance of the dramatic text in performance" [Pavis, 1992, 25] and the creation of context for this utterance. Of course he is talking here about theatre that has a 'dramatic text'.

The mise en scène is the performance text perceived as a system of signs working together to produce meaning. In other words, it involves the same three elements that any sign involves: signifier (the complex performance text), the signified (the open ended denotative and connotative meanings that are generated by the performance text) and the perceiver of the sign (the audience member).

While the performance exists as an object - even if a constantly shifting and tenuous one - the mise en scene only exists as it is received and reconstructed by the individual spectator. It is like electricity - it only exists when it is switched on. There can therefore be as many mises en scene as there are spectators.

The mise en scene is a network of relationships between different stage materials and is created by the artistic team - dramatist, director, designer, actor, musicians, technicians, and the relationship between all of this and the spectator through the process of reception.

Pavis makes the crucial statement that

"The utterance is always intended for an audience, with the result that mise en scène can no longer ignore the spectators and must even include them as the receptive pole in the circuit comprising the mise en scène produced by the artists and the mise en scène produced by the spectators" (Pavis p.38-9)
Pavis’ use of the phrase ‘the mise en scène produced by the artists’ is potentially confusing, in that it calls attention to a more common use of the term mise en scène, meaning ‘the staging and scenography’ of the production, or even ‘the performance text’. But his emphasis on dual agency (artists and audience) elucidates the essential role of the audience in the 'meaning creation' loop that is the mise en scène, which Pavis defines as "the bringing together or confrontation, in a given space and time, of different signifying systems, for an audience".

The ‘fitting’ of the act of reception and the production of the performance text creates the mise en scène.

It is for this reason that one cannot speak of the mise en scène as something solely produced by the artists. Similarly, in "The Death of the Author", Barthes emphatically asserts the role of the ‘reader’ in the ‘unity’ of ‘text’:

"a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader and not … the author… a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination"

The transitory and elusive nature of the theatrical 'text' ('performance text') could be called its ‘hazardous nature’, for which "there is no other time than that of the enunciation". Researching performance is, as Pearson and Shanks argue, an archaeological project, because theatrical performance is 'the always already gone by’. The mise en scène is held together momentarily by acts of production and reception. At the end of that moment, the relationship falls back into nothing. The lights go out, the electricity is turned off, so to speak, and we go home.

In reality it is most difficult to distinguish between text and reader, or between the performance text and the mise en scène, precisely because in order to ascertain what constitutes the performance text one has engage in a reading of it in some way. Perhaps this is why Pavis’ use of the terms ‘performance’, ‘performance text’ and mise en scène seem somewhat confused at times.

Next: part 2 - Many
@2001-2003 * Dramatic Text and Performance

To return now to ‘staging’ a play, what we have been working on in the workshops and what I spoke about in lecture 3. Staging is not, as Pavis notes,

"the mere physical uttering of a text with the appropriate intonation and ‘seasoning’ so that all can grasp the correct meaning; it is creating contexts of utterance in which the exchanges between verbal and non-verbal elements can take place." (p. 38)
Pavis argues at length (pp. 24-47) that the mise en scène is not the literal staging that has been indicated in various ways by the written text. To view the performance text as a direct equivalent, in performance terms, of the written text on the page, is to ignore the polysemic nature of performance and at the same time to condemn it to irrelevance. Such a proposition, he argues, "would entail disregarding the signifying materiality of verbal and stage signs" (p.26). In response to the catch cries of ‘one must let the text stand for itself, do not interfere’ - that manifestation of the 'anti-theatrical prejudice' [Barisch, 1981] which regards performance as the degradation of the perfect written text - he argues that it simply is not possible to "neutralise the stage so that the text can speak on its own, or be heard without mediation or without distortion."(pp45-6).

Nor is performance the signifier (in its own terms) of exactly the same signified that is indicated by the written text. In this case there would certainly be no purpose in staging a play at all, since absolutely nothing would be gained by it. The mise en scène is not, as Pavis notes, "the reduction or the transformation of text into performance, but rather their confrontation"(p.26). The performance text and mise en scène, as outlined above, are formed from a dialogue between what is said, how it is said, what other sounds are heard, what is shown by various means, what is spatially experienced, and so on. As Vitez puts it,

"theatrical pleasure, for the spectator, resides in the difference between what is said and what is shown …what seems exciting to the spectator springs from the idea that one does not show what is said"
These injunctions to ‘let the text be heard’ also presuppose that there is only one ‘true’ staging of a play which is already present in the written text, and which it is the duty of the production team to extract. This erroneous attitude is particularly strong in relation to performance of canonical works such as Shakespeare and Greek tragedy. The mise en scène of the same text can vary over time and place, that is to say the social and cultural context of the performance. Each mise en scène is a new reading of the dramatic text. "With every new mise en scene, the text is placed in a situation of enunciation according to the new Social Context of its reception, which allows or facilitates a new analysis of the text and so on, ad finitum."(Pavis, 1992, 30)

The concept of mise en scène disrupts and overthrows the idea that the dramatic text is a fixed, stable, finite linguistic object. Every performance is an original restaging of the meaning of the dramatic text, in conjunction with the spectator(s). The point is,

‘that there is no definitive originary meaning, since what the "original" performance meant will itself have been fragmented, and experienced in many different ways’
[Thomas 1994: 143, quoted in Pearson & Shanks, 2001, 59]"
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