sense of space

Virtual Theatre * Theory * * *

TOPICS: drama + comedy + postmodern + american age + space + time + chronotope + direct + event theory + present + sex + past + marxism + shows +
Williams: For time is the longest distance between two places.

[ advertising space : webmaster ]
text LINKS

Theatre, as distinct from other dramatic media, is essentially a relationship between performer, spectator, and the space in which both come together. Space in Performance examines the way theatre buildings function to frame the performance event, the organization of audience and practitioner spaces within the building, the nature of the stage and the modes of representation it facilitates, and the relationship between the real space of the theatre and the fictional places that are evoked.
The book's theoretical and methodological framework is both semiotic and phenomenological, based in part on Anne Ubersfeld's seminal work, direct observation of the rehearsal process, and documentation and analysis of professional performances. The situation of the academic observer in the rehearsal room has much in common with that of the ethnographer in the field, and contemporary ethnographic practice provides a third theoretical and methodological perspective to this study.
Performance studies is an emerging discipline, and it is still evolving appropriate methodologies. The multifaceted approach adopted here will engage theatre and performance studies specialists, those concerned with modes of representation in contemporary culture, and students of theatre, semiotics, architecture, set design, acting, and performance theory. The book also offers a great deal to theatre practitioners and spectators interested in deepening their appreciation of theatre art. It is accessibly written, and the theory always emerges from descriptions of practice.

Gay McAuley is Director of the Centre for Performance Studies and Associate Professor of French Studies, University of Sydney.

Acting One
Fundamentals : BioMethod
Places of Performance: The Semiotics of Theatre Architecture: Marvin A. Carlson 1993 ISBN: 0801480949
Script Directory
Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (New Accents) Keir Elam Routledge September, 2002 Paperback ISBN: 0415280184

HamletDreams 2001: mindscape
Directing Showcases
3 Sisters, Mikado, 12th Night, The Importance of Being Earnest, Dangerous Liaisons, Don Juan
... Space POMO : R/G are Dead (2008)


new mini-page in
The Possessed 2003
* mise en scene and the spectator: Susan Bassnet points out that the playing space itself, 'the area designated for the accommodation of the audience, is of central importance.' (140) It determines the physical and perceptual relationship of the audience to the stage but also the size of the audience as a group. The relation between the playing and viewing area is crucial to mise en sc§Úne. There can be a fixed stage - auditorium relationship or a moving one where the audience moves around to watch the performance from different viewing positions.

The stage pre-set position, what the audience sees when they enter the theatre is crucial. It is the spectator's entry into mise en scene and stimulates the spectator's receptive capacity. The decoding process begun perhaps in the foyer, on reading the program, gazing at the posters, balking at the ticket price, swearing at the traffic and pronouncing the name of the dramatist picks up pace at this point. Here the spectator's horizon of expectations meets the mise en scene which is a product of the artistic team's horizon of expectations.


Göran Sonesson's Internet Semiotics Encyclopedia ***

In 1920, Meyerhold was appointed as the head of the Department of the Commissariat for Enlightenment. Through this position, he "argued for the creation of aesthetic forms that would contain and express the spirit of the Revolution."(Baer 45) Soon, his vision of a practical, utilitarian art, which condemned all that was decorative and depictive, and raged alongside the cultural revolution would be found, but not without a series of failed efforts.


Virtual Theatre w/Anatoly

Constructivism: The design is constructed for utilitarian purposes only. Though a constructivist set can look frighteningly sharp and exposed at times, the abrupt behavior of straight lines may actually enforce a cyclical pattern of continuous movement. . This movement is literally seen in Meyerhold¡¯s emphasis on the actors¡¯ movement in his biomechanics; and, the movable, variable, and workable setting. Not only is the stage designed for function only, it forces the actors/workers to use the space to achieve the objectives, which, undoubtedly, transfer into real life.




Beckett's Godot:

In the theater, for instance, the spectators were meant to reproduce the vision of the dramatist: excluded from the spectacle, located in a privileged space exterior to the world of the representation from which they could cast an omniscient eye upon the totality of the drama, they inhabited the universe of the creator and shared his objective, all-encompassing, fixed point of view upon the represented reality. The Italian perspective stage setting, whose guiding principle was the concept of unity of place, dominated Western theater from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries.The spatial unity of the perspective setting was achieved only by excluding the concept of time from the stage: "Only between the acts and scenes was time permitted to pass freely."

... Since the time of the Impressionists, linear perspective has lost its supremacy as the organizing principle of space in painting...

"Just as the cubist broke up the object into various planes, or as photomontage gave its own sort of polyphonic vision by means of combined shots, so Pirandello offers a compound image in drama. He surrenders the literary subject while the cubist is surrending [sic] the anecdote, and treats this theatre as a plane intersecting art and life....

Pirandello "destroys" drama much as the cubists destroyed conventional things. He will not accept as authentic "real" people or the cliché of the theatre any more than the cubist accepts as authentic the "real" object, the cliché of deep perspective, the contour of volumes seen in the light of the studio—or under sunlight either. The object, say Gleizes and Metzinger, has no absolute form; it is only a passage in possible relationships, with many relevances that are never fixed. Except by a blunder we cannot drop the curtain on Pirandello's drama because there is no clear boundary between life and art.Nor can the cubist painter isolate or define his object. He can, however, represent its emergence into reality."
[ The Broken Window: Beckett's Dramatic Perspective Book by Jane Alison Hale; Purdue University Press, 1987 p.7 ]

Postmodern Page

[ In 1946, Eric Bentley characterized Sartre's Existentialist Theater as the "theater of the inner eye," by way of contrast with Brecht's Epic Theater, which he called "the theater of the outer eye." ]

Beckett later generalized this acceptance of the impossibility of art to represent when he defined the modern artist's condition in a now-famous passage from his "Three Dialogues": "The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express."

4th dimension = time (as space): The Cubists' experiments with pictorial space led them quite naturally to explore the technique of collage—the juxtaposition of fragments of actual objects on the surface of the canvas.

2007 -- director and stage : mise-en-scene

Index * Theatre w/Anatoly * Books * Stagematrix.06 * Students * Spectator * Virtual Theatre * Script Analysis * SHOWS * Film Theory * Film Directing * Plays * Write * Web * Classes * Bookmark vTheatre! Mailing List & News -- subscribe yourself * Method Acting for Directors * Acting 101 *

Theory: Space

I have to write about theatre space in cyber-space... What a joke!
Three new pages to work on: Chronotope, Time and this one - Space. [ mise-en-scene ]

[ If you read The Book of Spectator, you understand why we need to discuss the components of dramatic experience and why we need to talk about "subjective" time and space. Dramatic events take place in you, SpectActor! ]


After 1905 (Einstein) the physics never speak about one (objective) space (Newton). We understand that space = f (speed), or even more serious - acceleration! In shrot, space has different forms depending of motion; actor (writer, director) can shrink space or enlarge it, transforming it into dramatic space -- and only in this "subjectivized" space communication and artistic message can exist. [ while, this page waits for another draft, read Spectator II notes. ]

Maybe the best way to start is to read Stagematrix pages.


The chronotope (*) pages were born out of need to discuss the mise-en-scene issues in details. Brook made "Empty Space" idea famous, but we understand that action could take place only in dramatic space ("space-time" experience of the spectator); the question is how the "empty" space is transformed into dymanic space (Event Theory)?

Best is to refer you to Eistein's notion of space-time in his theory of relativity. He established that the two categories cannot be viewed separately -- and they are dymanic in nature (depending on speed). View "speed" as action in our case (time becomes slow or fast, depending on drama). In biomechanics (dictionary) I introduced several elements (mass of event, inertia, depth of even), which do need an explaination. "Stage Event" (simular to the concept of "Screen Event," developed much better by film theory) is constructed in space and time, but only after they are transformed into the artistic medium.

First, the frame. We need to separate stage space from the rest (like in fine art) in order for us to give this selected space semiotic ability (to "write" in). It's not only the " stage mirror," but the direction position of the public, light and etc. -- the stage becomes "divine" space (vs. profane, or normal, "objective"), i.e. we have to make it "empty" at first!

[ compare with relaxation and concentration in acting ]

In directing and acting classes I'm using the floor plan exercises all the time to force the students to explore the 2D space (9 squares - upstage, left, right and so on). The thrid D is the vertical (three levels). With the students in Acting II class we have to go through exercises on how to "read" motion sentences on stage (left to right, upstage -- downstage and etc.) -- see Acting Areas (actors must know how to designate spots for different emotions, how to assign the space for different states of mind of their characters, how to meet director and designer in their pre-arrangement of the space for action -- set, light... ). In order to understand how to operate with 3D, we need to know how one dimension works. If indeed believe that actor is an artist must contribute to designing the dynamic space on stage (ironic, the light is based on actors' positions and movement, and drama expressed through the characters!)

Forget the time experience for while, think in static pix -- slides. I use the film framning ideas in class -- wide shot, medium, closeup. I recommend to work with space before we can get to time constructions. Call it "blocking" (I rather use the term "mise-en-scene"), but make sure the changes are motivated (actor should understand cause and effect of spatial changes). If space has no "motivated" (emotional) designators, we will never establish the spectator's chronotope (our goal in order to costruct the unique "story's universe," where the action will take place).


So, at what point we move from space to time construction?

... Well, we actually did it already. by defining the space according to action, we designated the slow and fast motion for time. Now the pace of changes between space positions ("timing"): speed and acceleration (the second is even more important in defining the speed of action).
I have no "mass of event" page, which could be compare to "gravity" -- every event is diffrent in its "gravitas" (think of genre rules -- "errors" vs. death, and etc.) The mass of dramatic event effect both, time and space. In many ways every stage space is "raked" downstage is "heavier" than upstage, the public is the "black hole" which swallows everything. The house is the center of gravity in theatre. Even the theatre architecture (including the illusion of the arena stage' settings) suggests it.


See the stage as the center of projection (two triangles):

\  stage  /
 \       /
  \     /
   \   /
    \ /
    / \
   /   \
  /     \
 /       \
/  house  \

Think about the pontentuality (energy) and actuality (the energy of action) is generated by the gaze!) -- another untouched subject, developed by physics (QM) -- the seeing changes the nature of subjects (principle of uncertanty). On stage this concept is central!


Of course, the axis of energy between stage and public should be taken in several segments. "Distance" is the source of what we know as "rising action" (I wish all the drama terminology could be examined by stage-metrics, but I still struggle with "metics" and "matrix" concepts). We need to use 24 century of dramatic theory (hello, Aristotle) in applications to directing theory (in my view, it's the first step to theatre theory). Maybe the Biomechanics could be the venue for this strive....

The "x" spot -- the last point of the stage's drive to the public...

2004 & After

projects: Demons 2003

texts: Theatre History

in focus: Taming of the Shrew

Theatre Books list *

reading: Theatre Theory



Virtual Theatre: Directing, Acting, Drama, Theory

playsChekhov, Ibsen, Bard, scripts

play writing amazon list *


Aston & Savona, Theatre as a Sign System (Routledge)

Susan Bennett, Theatre Audiences: A Theory of Production and Reception (Routledge, 1990)

Margaret Eddershaw, performing brecht (Routledge, 1996)

Patrice Pavis, Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture (Routledge, 1992)

--------- Analyzing Performance Theatre, Dance and Film trans. By David Williams (London & New York: Routledge, 2003)

Next: part3 directing
Venice-DonJuan2003 * "The performance space itself, the stage, is what gives otherwise ordinary and unremarkable things the status of signifier. Things are not haphazardly placed in the performance space as they might be found in everyday life. Everything has an artificial or pre-determined meaning. The process of signification in performance is not accidental but is directed and controlled. One of the marks of a bad performance is one in which insufficient or no consideration has been given to the meaning of things in the context of the performance. As Aston and Savona remark, 'Trying to make sense of a badly organised sign system can be a frustrating and unrewarding experience and is generally a sign of the artistic director's failure.' (Aston &Savona, 100) See further example p. 100.

They argue that,

It is the responsibility of the director to ensure that the sign systems operating in a production not only work in isolation, but also create the desired effect when combined with signs from other systems. (100)
Let's apply a reading of mise en scene to the opening moments of Jack Hibberd's A Stretch of the Imagination. This version, with Max Gillies as Monk O'Neill, was made for television, but it is based on an actual performance. Make a list of the icons, indexes and symbols you identify, including those that fit more than one category. Hibberd hated naturalism. What anti-naturalist elements are there in the scene?


Ideally theatrical signs should combine transmit clear messages and b. to hierarchise the messages sent.

IN THEATRE everything is put before us simultaneously. There is an inherent heterogeneity about performance. There is no camera to direct our attention on a specific point in the mise en sc¨¨ne. The performance text relies on a hierarchy of signs through which the spectator is made aware of the performance centre and its peripheral action. The spectator is guided towards the identification of 'pertinent signs' the reading of which will make the performance makes sense. This view holds that the performance itself has hierarchised the meanings it wishes to communicate to the audience and hopes that the audience gets it right. Theatre can emphasise and conceal sign systems. It can foreground or make strange specific elements of the staging which it wishes to emphasise in order to communicate its particular interpretation of a dramatic text. eg. Jean Pierre Mignon's 1988 Summer of the Seventeenth Dolls mise en scene with its oversize kewpie dolls hanging from the roof. Alternatively theatre can conceal its meaning under fable, myth or traditional narrative structures. Theatre can also subvert the hierarchy of signs by creating a collage where no one sin is given priority over another - common in postmodern theatre.

This hierarchy of signs is not fixed and can change in any performance. Signs can transform in meaning.

@2000-2003 index *

2007 [class]

Genres ShowCases: Hamlet (tragedy), Mikado (opera), 12th Night (comedy), Dangerous Liaisons (drama)

subjects : space * time * chronotope * acting * director * semio * theory * history * audience * themes *

Total Directing Up-level

rate Film-North * Anatoly Antohin * eCitations
© 2005 by Permission to link to this site is granted. +
cite: anatoly antohin. URL + date [ my shows : 1. writer * 2. director * 3. dramaturg * 4. actor ]

thr theory home: new * appendix * links * list * biblio * references * faq * notes * dictionary * flickr * swicki * domains * archive * store * popup * virtual theatre * 2007 * directing class list * total director +

film house vtheatre books acting pen map-mining movies-forum