The State of Current Theatre Research

Patrice Pavis

Université de Paris VIII

1. Review of Research

1.1 Before Semiology: Dramaturgical Analysis

Performance analysis obviously does not simply date from the age of structuralism and semiology. Any spectator who comments on a performance analyses it ipso facto, since he selects, names, prioritises and examines one particular element as opposed to another and establishes links between these elements. When spectators comment on the performance, they do not have to verbalise the unsayable; they try rather to find a few landmarks. The description most often takes the form of the narration of a story (plot or fabula) or at least an account of the most remarkable stage events which facilitates an understanding of the materials used, a natural segmentation of the performance and a highlighting of the most powerful or chosen moments in the mise en scène.
The tradition of dramaturgical analysis goes back to Diderot (De la poésie dramatique, 1758) and Lessing (La dramatique de Hambourg, 1767) in whose work we find remarkable descriptions of acting and stage effects. Brecht therefore only renews a tradition already established in Germany, that of the Dramaturg (the director's literary and theatrical advisor, now known as the dramaturge). He offers dramaturgical analyses on the theatre and particular productions of his time which reveal much about the general conception of mise en scène. In France, this same approach is found in critical theorists such as Roland Barthes or Bernard Dort. Their analyses are always based on ideological and aesthetic mechanisms found in the production. Until the 1960s, this mode of description dominated all others due to its breadth of vision, its precision and the compromise it managed to find between meticulous observation and interpretation. Dramaturgical analysis, aware that it is not exhaustive although not necessarily aware that it also contributes to performance, offers an initial synthetic approach to performance; it underlines the main structures of a performance while avoiding a fragmented perception of it.
The following chapter shall show that there are numerous other tools at our disposal with which we might examine a performance; and it is useful to link all these different methods and increase our sources of information. It is advisable to start by putting forward the possibility of performance semiology, which is both a well established 'science' and a field of research in the process of being 'restructured.'


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AS/SA Nº3, Article 1 : Page 1 / 16

© 1997 by AS/SA

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