IVAYLO ALEKSANDROV, PhD
ARCHITECTONICS OF THEATRICALITY
THE THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE IN А SEMIOTIC PERSPECTIVE
Prosveta Publishing House, Sofia, 2012
ISBN: 978-954-01-2696-8

summary-architectonics-of-theatricality

(SUMMARY)

Research Object

Theatrical art -> aesthetical, philosophical, ethical and social problematics -> visual figures and concrete objects of intellectual discussion.
Theatrical performance -> symbol of histrionics -> basic structural categories and functions of stage signification.
Denotation of concrete senses and meanings -> cultural discourse of performance -> theatrical sign interaction -> active semiosis.

Object:

  • Theatrical performance -> multi-layered of significant elements -> visual / intelligible image of every secondary / other reality -> stage / perceiving subject.

Immediate Tasks of Research

  • Specification of the question about the semiotic perspective of thѐatralitѐ.
  • Decreeing of the theatrical performance as signifier and formulating of the signs and the signs’ constructions on the stage.
  • Argueing the question concerning the stage figure as a basic sign attribute of reincarnation / transformation within theatrical reality.
  • Structuring of the problem concerning theatrical communication and theatrical code as basic components in the process of activating the contents of sense/meaning in the mind of the perceiving spectator.
  • Clarifying the systematics of absence / presence of signs on the stage.
  • Defining the mechanism of linguistic / paralinguistic interaction of the performance’s components in the process of creation of an active signifying convention.
  • Formulation of the aesthetics of the theatrical performance as a theatrical text.
  • Determination of the actor’s radical significance in the overall semiotic discourse of the performance.
  • Clarifying the concrete semiotic function of the stage space as a basic component equal to the actor’s presence (actor -> stage space -> theatrical performance).
  • Defining the character of mise-en-scéne as a basic representative principle for the creation of a signifying stage convention.

Remarks on the Semiotic Character of Thѐatralitѐ

  • A theatrical text, as literature, is an object of hermeneutic research; a theatrical performance as an action, exists in consequence of that hermeneutics, this is the prime cause of its appearance.
  • Theatrical performance -> a product of triple-hermeneutical dependency -> an audience interprets already interpreted essences, senses and meanings, which transformes them into different essences, senses and meanings.
  • Constituting a theatrical performance -> primary text (author), a hermeneutical discourse on this text-interpretation (director), secondary hermeneutical discourse on the interpretation that has already appeared – over-interpretation (spectator).
  • Theatrical act -> multiformity of sign-communicative systems -> linguistic constructs.
  • Theatricality (thѐatralitѐ) -> availability of different components -> verbal expression, gestures, mimics, affectations, body and psychological conditions, visual imagery, musical and sound environment.
  • Basis of communication -> perceived by the contemplator (spectator) and existing as a reality on a psycho-cognitive level -> performative text, constructed from multiple sign structures.

PART I
THEATRICALITY AND SEMIOTICALITY

Signs and Sign Configurations – The  Performance Space as Signifier

Foundation:

  • Semiotic investigation of the foundation qualities of the sign in a practically endless semiosis.
  • Basic conception of the types of theatrical signs.

Theatrical signs:

  • linguistic (verbal) / non-linguistic (non-verbal) (in Fischer-Lichte 1992 figured as lingusitics and paralinguistics, De Toro 1995 follows Peirce, subdivided the signs as Icon, Index, Simbol corresponding with a verbal/non-verbal dimension)
  • linguistic -> auditory and visual / durable and ephemeral
  • non-linguistic -> ephemeral  and durable / visual and non-visual (in non-verbal category)
  • summary subdivision -> verbal and non-verbal

Inference:

  • Semiotic approach -> micro-world, constructed through the specific theatrical mechanism of signification.
  • Specific qualities of the theatrical sign -> detailed position within the stage environment -> mutual penetration from one sign structure to another.
  • Specific sign characteristics -> aesthetics of signification -> the theatrical act as a unique phenomenon which is the product of sign interaction.

Semantics of Transformation – The Stage Figure within the Context of Performance

  • Stage figure -> complex product which is a consequence of interrelation between dramatis personae towards represented character (Veltruský 1976, 1977, 1983, also in Mukařovský 1931, 1978 – dramatic figure, in Zich 1931, 1995 – actor’s figure).
  • Stage figure -> actor’s sign -> complicated structure, synthesis of elements, linguistic and paralinguistic signs -> a system within the system of the entire corpus of the performance.
  • Semiotic perspective of what is being presented on the stage -> transformation / basic structural element of the performance.
  • Theatrical action as signatum -> producing of signantia (Veltrusky 1976: 593).
  • An actor’s presentation on the stage as a sign of the signs -> foundation of the acting sign -> constituting the veritable thѐatralitѐ.
  • Theatricality -> open system of transformation/reincarnation -> transformation of the thing into something different (in Bogatyrev 1976: 31 – transforming in a different form).
  • Systematization of sign components on the stage and constructing of the stage semiosis  -> actor, transformed into image / stage space / costume / musical environment / communication with the spectator / audience’s interpretation.

Theatrical Communication and Theatrical Code – Aesthetical Sign Convention and Spectator’s Perception

  • What is being transformed and its basic role for the constructing of the stage semiosis -> analysis of the stage–spectator communicative system -> coding/decoding of the stage-performative theatrical code by the perceiving spectator.
  • Presence of а theatrical convention -> relatively uniform communicative language and relatively identical encoding/decoding matrix -> constituting the communicative environment between encoder and decoder.
  • Every convention as much as it is possible within the artistic act is subject to demolition in the stage reality, depending on the level of that encoding/decoding.

Inferences:

  • Spectators’ perception-> dynamics of the theatrical signs -> aesthetics of the theatrical signs -> projection of the personal conscious artistic impulse of the perceiver.
  • Sign environment on the stage -> spectators’ perception of objects, sounds and action -> sign systems, of no value communicatively, out of the scope of the spectators’ perception.
  • Open theatrical communication -> brightness of the code and the theatrical situation -> degree of accepting/disturbing of the convention -> level of reproduction of reality on the stage towards level of understanding of the perceiver -> envelopment and complicity of presentation of the  cultural situation itself.

Reflection of the Domination – The Sign as Absence/Presence

  • Semiotics of the theatre -> the basic role of the audience in the process of perceiving the performance -> absent and present signs on the stage.
  • Semiotics of the theatrical performance -> interpretation -> presence of significant process.
    “The problem with semiotics is that in addressing theater as a system of codes it necessarily dissects the perceptual impression theater makes on the spectator” (Bert O. State 1985: 7)
  • Sign hierarchy within the performance system -> active interaction on the level of sign reflection with the spectator’s overall competence (De Merinis 1993).
  • Dynamics of absence/presence of the sign -> distribution of sign process on the stage -> spectator’s perception -> act of dynamic reflection of the  spectator’s semiotic awareness.
  • Within the hierarchy of the arrangement of the theatrical signs a domination of one or a few sign systems is possible (Fischer-Lichte 1992).
  • Semiotic domination of a separate sign or configuration/group of signs on the stage ->distinguishing/decoding process concerning the sign systems on the stage.
  • Presence of a concrete norm / criterion -> commonly accepted level of perceiver’s conventionality/competence.
  • Permanent re-formulating of content and domination conditions of the theatrical sign -> momentary presenting and distinguishing of a concrete sign on the stage.

Inference:

  • Higher degree of mobility and interchangeability of theatrical signs -> complexity in determining the hierarchical mutual dependency -> theatrical signs are not only physically presented on the stage, they are dependent on the dualistic game of absence/presence.

Linguistic and Paralinguistic Interaction – Sign Transmission, Representation, Active Convention

  • Linguistic/paralinguistic interaction of theatrical signs in three aspects of representation -> verbal – verbal, non-verbal – non-verbal, verbal – non verbal and vice versa.
  • Dependency of the signs on the active convention within a concrete sign system and at a given moment during the development of the performance.
  • Verbal/non-verbal performance sign environment -> principle of theatrical signs interaction as transmission of images (integration of the content image -> icon) and words (also images -> icons).
  • Images (as an iconic element of static/dynamic non-verbal representativeness)  -> words (as a product of the linguistic verbal environment) -> bearers of different variations of communicative messages.
  • Complex interaction (verbal/non-verbal in unified convention) ->  the possible variations of sign messages significantly exceed their independent correlations.
  • Complex interaction of verbal and non-verbal signs in the theatrical performance -> variation of the possible significant effects -> active levels of representation.
  • Manipulation of a sign-image independently or in combination with a sign-word -> basic principle of transmission of sense in the desired message -> perceptive expression of signification within the consciousness of the perceiving spectator on a semiotic level (linguistic or paralinguistic).

PART II
PERFORMANCE AND SIGNIFICATION

The Performance as a Theatrical Text – Morphology of a Stage Signification

  • Showing of a sense and meaning in a theatrical environment -> analysis of the signification/communication process in a theatrical stage reality.
  • Semiotic perspective -> an idea for the theatrical performance as a theatrical text -> two aspects of signification: linguistic/non-linguistic and performative (physically active) -> diversity of signification on the stage.
  • Theatrical performance -> а defined codes complex (over-theatrical cultural codes) -> secondary sign systems of performance – literature, music, fine arts, mythology, religion, the theatre itself as an art.
  • The performative codes (sign systems) within the performance function simultaneously (paradigmatic) or linear (syntagmatic) -> producing of signification (De Toro 1992: 52).
  • Signs -> sign systems in variations -> spectator -> principle of simultaneously/ syntagmatic relation -> signification.
  • De Marinis (1993) / De Toro (1995) -> performative text categorization as a macrotext or text of the text (De Merinis 1993: 47-59), which is the result of  the variations of partial performative texts -> utterance, music, costumes, gestures, dance, graceful body movements.

Inference:

  • The Elements of the general performative text interact and show themselves in a united sense -> constructing of the theatrical text as a performative expression.

The Actor within the Stage Space – Semantics of Transformation

  • Semantics of the actor’s transformation -> Aristotle’s Poetics and Diderot’s Paradox? of Acting -> pre-semiotics acting theories (Quinn 1989) -> basic mediators of the stage figure’s concept.
  • Actors’ transformation (mimesis) -> communicative channel and representative language -> language presenting form / narrative with relation to the spectator -> stage figure.
  • Stage figure (in Otakar Zich – actor’s figure) is a dichotomy between the perception of the actor (dramatic character) and the perception of the audience (perception of the stage figure) -> dynamic dichotomy between a material object and a sign (in the tradition of general semiotics/ the Prague School).
  • The actor playing a role (dramatic character) transforms a dual diegetic structure -> representative or sign (also in Aristotle and Diderot) -> mimetic construct (stage figure of the Prague School, exists also in the practical actor’s techniques of Stanislavskii 1936, Chekhov 1953, Grotowski 1968 etc.)

Inference:

  • The theatrical performance is constructed in line with the principles of transformation or mimesis -> an actor imitates/transforms and represents the stage figure -> concrete semiotic system, structured from multiple semiotic units (signs/codes).

Semiotics of the Stage – ME within the Stage Space

  • Stage space semiotical uniqueness -> intellectually measurable environment concerning an actor and an audience -> it isn’t only a material symbol of the performative text.
  • The stage space is burdened with a specific internal sense -> has the entire sign characteristics of stage architectonics, including in its sign structure the scenography itself ->  in open context it is a dramatic space (in its forms: onstage and offstage [mimetic and diegetic], as well as intra-diegetic and extra-diegetic [presented by the actor chiefly on the level of utterance and active on the level of awareness/imagination considering  the actors and the spectators]).
  • The stage space as „constructed in relation to the actor” (Ubersfeld 1999: 119) -> intellectual environment in the context of sign semiosis of the performance (performance text) -> interaction between (actor/stage space) and audience in the frames of theatrical reality.
  • Interactivity between the stage space and the actor -> representative sign transfer between stage space/actor and in relation to the spectator -> gradual visual formation of the stage illusion -> significant referential function in the context of imaginary world of the performance.

Inference:

  • On the level of theatre semiosis a signification in the field of a visual and sense text has been engendered:
    а) through the interaction of the actors in/with the stage space
    б) through the interaction of the actors in/with the stage space and with the     audience in the theatrical space.

Мise-en-Scéne – The Representative Convention of the Performance

  • Analysis of the theatrical mechanism of transformation -> mise-en-scéne – to-stage/transform-something-on-the-stage.
  • Мise-en-scéne is a structural formation, theoretical construct and radical object of knowledge -> it is not a profane result of the director’s (artistic) intervention concerning the dramaturgical and/or performative text.
  • Theatrical performance -> dualistic function of the actor in the process of sign producing (actor’s discourse) -> semiotic reflection in relation to the stage space action (stage performance).
  • Reconstruction of the performative text -> a spectator perceives the entire corpus of the system which is configured by separate sign subsystems with all of the action’s components – utterance, gesture/mimics/movement, stage mechanization, sound.
  • Theatrical presenting -> semiotic code of the creator’s artistic world (director, actors, stage designer, composer, choreographer) presented as   mise-en-scéne and represented as performative text (an active matrix for producing sense).
  • To-stagе/transform-something-on-the-stage -> existence of preliminary knowledge and built-up experience which is transformed by the creator of the performance and is supposed as understanding (i.e. what exactly will be understood by the perceiver).
  • Convention: primary semiotic practice of the theatrical performance -> transformation of all presented objects into signs / sign configurations of which the spectator could become aware.
  • The role and influence of the collective cultural archetypes over the individual artistic activity and perception; treating of those archetypes from the aesthetical perspective.
  • The aesthetics of mise-en-scéne, in the contemporary theatrical practice, is based on the cultural experience which is stratified in the personal consciousness/unconsciousness of the theatrical artist and spectator.

Inference:

  • Archetypical reflection of mise-en-scéne -> harmonization of the roles of individual and collective unconsciousness (or consciousness)  -> a complex of mutually supplementing perspectives of an optimal sign semiosis -> semiotic perspective on the stage -> coordinated action and strict geometry of the movements -> orderly performative line and technical vision -> significant essence of the theatrical performance as a process of communication and representation.

Phenomenology of Play-of-Lies – Incorporation of the Theatre. Representation within the Architectonics of Performance

  • A clear answer to the question concerning the “theatrical lie” as a fiction and aesthetic method of constituting performative reality -> an explicit semiotic discourse within the context of Umberto Eco’s radical idea about the existence of a possible theory of lie launched in “A Theory of Semiotics” (1976) -> the interpretation of the concept “lie” is being used and interpreted solely from the position of an aesthetic reflection -> the  catharsis of the idea for performative semiosis of the theatre performance.
  • The theatre performance as a creative expression is in the form of a game, regulating its own cultural values through depicting and pronouncing “lies” ->  the ‘Playing of Lies’, lying to the spectator about the presented “objective” reality -> the presenting or the representing of the world through a play model and a concrete play principle which definitely formulates the ‘lie’ as a means of a laying of senses, essences and meanings -> the representation of the world “outside” with the lie-presented world “inside” -> the spectator’s believing in the narrative of the actor-lie-presenter translate the essence of the theatre  as an “art of lie”.
  • Lying in the theatre -> the uttering of truths about the world by play collisions, formulated through the statement “We play” -> the act of presenting the lie as a form of relative truth -> presented in a completely conscious manner to the spectator provokes the free will of the presenter in the line of creating an open sign system -> figuratively crossing the separate senses, meanings and iconic relatives -> the spectator: without him losing his intellectual dignity, to get “In” the structural wholeness of the lie, by believing it thoroughly, accepting the conditions of things in the way the “playing of a lie”  presents it to him -> through the visualization of his play the actor presents an action and engages the attention of the audience, not just accomplishing the act of lying to the spectator -> he presents the lie as a completely regulated and taxonomical image, semantically created and intelligibly significant from the position of its own acting pragmatics -> that lie-image has been transformed by the actor lie-presenter in a narrative and has already appeared as a sign of something which says something to the spectator -> on the level of his own competence perceives it as something which gives him a sense and bears its own meaning.
  • In support of the abovementioned: the ideas of Eco in his book „A Theory of Semiotics” (1976) and those in the theoretical research included in “The Drama Review” magazine – “Semiotics of Theatrical Performance” (1977) referring to theatricality as a lie-presentation -> the product of this lie in direct relation to the pure playing model of theatre performance -> coming onto the stage, the actor makes a performative statement – “I am acting” and with this implicit statement the actor is telling the truth since he has announced that from that moment on he will indeed lie (Eco 1977: 115) -> the actor clearly formulates the inviolable connection between the acts of lying and playing -> the involving the ideas of Huizinga referring to the aesthetics of game as a cultural phenomenon, developed in his brilliant work ‘Homo Ludens’: in relation to our way of thinking, playing is the direct opposite of seriousness (Huizinga 1980: 5) -> the perception of the theatrical play as something not serious, as something illusive, out of the context of actual existence, originally deceitful, invented and created post factum in similarity to real life -> the characteristics of the theatre as a mysterious act, something unknown and enigmatic and due to this reason – sacred in its pure deceitfulness.
  • Mentioning Gadamer and his treatise “Truth and Method” -> presuming that in the process of playing, playing is playing-of-idea-for-recognizing-something – rather what we experienced in the work of art and what invites our attention is how true it is – i.e., to what extent one knows and recognizes something and oneself (Gadamer 1993: 114) -> the playing of the fantasy realization of the idea, how something should look, sound, what it should imply, how it should be perceived, how it should speak about something else -> playing-of-idea-for-recognizing-something is formulated by the play-on-lies (Ibid.) -> an idea, transformed by the act of lying into a semantic figure, presenting and imposing its sense and significance as a referential subject, as part of the general semiosis, professes its ostentation by transforming into a figure -> in Gadamer: transformation in figure (a total fulfilling of the human play in art) (Ibid.) -> the logic of transformation in figure is par excellence the semiotic logic of theatrical transmutation as lie-presenting, a pure and genuine phenomenological play as a play-of-lies.

Inference:

  • Based on the context of Gadamer, with regard to knowledge and truth, the being of the representation is more than the being of the thing represented (Gadamer 1993: 114). I am concluding this research with the conviction that the constitution of the theatrical lie in the aesthetics of the game is probably the most creative factor which has contributed to the transformation of theatricality from a strictly religious ritual to a total art.  The truth is that theatre of all arts has kept the game as a signification of the playing action and reveals the world not only by it being a subject of entertaining but also as a subject which has transformed the playing-of-lie – i.e., theatre performance into a meaning of complicated research discourse.

The Theatrical Performance in a Semiotic Perspective – Conclusion

  • Theatrical performance in a semiotic perspective -> materialization of the sign -> direct creation of visual conception for the presented on the stage.
  • Co-ordination in the process of analysis of the end-product and perceiving of a sense -> a clear stand of a sign as a basic means of research of the performance’s wholeness.
  • This research project has clarified the question concerning the semiotic perspective of a theatrical performance and opens a new space for a  future research initiative.
  • Domination of the idea of the fundamental role of the audience in creating and promoting stage semiosis -> future semiotic approach to thѐatralitѐ -> investigation of spectator’s awareness/perception of theatrical reality.
  • Dissection of the signifying process at the theatre -> fundamental role of the audience -> the problem of perceiving theatrical reality -> „…a new trend in the semiotic study of the theatre to be further developed” (Carlson 1980).
  • Future perspective -> dynamics of the spectator’s perceiving as an object of research -> „…the analysis of the audience’s role in the spectacle, both the pure and simple decoding of the performance sign and the vastly more complex process of interpretation, has been the most neglected area of theatre semiotics and needs much more attention.” (De Marinis 1979).

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  1. Xandy казва:

    A mnitue saved is a minute earned, and this saved hours!