Patrice Pavis: "The State of Current Theatre Research"


A first step would involve arranging the different rhythms in the stage system, locating the rhythmic frameworks and seeing the resultant rhythm. For those performances which tell a story in a figurative way, where the spectator follows the 'sensory motor logic' of the action and the plot, we can take inspiration from the Stanislavskian notions of physical action, through-line of action or superobjective. A theory of vectors which groups and energizes entire moments in the performance shall be suggested later. These vectorised figures are found within the restricting yet clarifying framework of the orientated action, the plot (fable or fabula) and the way it is chronologically presented in the subject (two Russian formalist notions which should be recovered from the prop store!).4

2.6. The Question of Subjectivity

Semiology was set up as a means of avoiding an impressionistic discourse on performance. As a simple notation of signs, it eliminated the spectator's subjective gaze which is never neutral, considering the object of analysis by means of a conceptual and methodological apparatus. However, this fragile gaze, whether masculine or feminine, should never be totally eliminated, but examined in its relationship with the stage and the actor, above all, in order to grasp intuitively "what is indefinable in the acting, the obscure emergence of emotion" (Behnamou, 1988: 10). But how can we determine and note down the occurrence of such emotion? At best we can imagine - bearing in mind the cinema's perspective on theatrical reality - that the analysts gaze is comparable, albeit metaphorically, to that of film apparatus: point of view, distance, scale of shots, framings, montage, connections made through free associations, etc. In this way, theatre analyses gain from the language of cinema, which itself has been influenced by a particular logic of the human gaze.
But the subjective gaze of the (film or dramaturgical) lens is not so much a fugitive impression which is mechanically grasped, but rather a way for the spectators to experience the movements of the perceived object aesthetically, i.e. follow the movements of the actor-dancer and the overall dynamics of the performance corporeally. Like Barba (1992: 101), we are thinking of "those few spectators capable of following or accompanying the actor in the dance of 'thought-in-action.'" In our view, these spectators should not be so rare, they should even be the general rule: theatre lovers who are capable of feeling and understanding the sensations and movements of their own body, of perceiving the 'thought-in-action', the body of the performers and the performance as an auto-bio-graphy in the strict sense of the term, i.e as a writing of the actor's body as much as the spectators, a writing which inscribes itself in the scene (to be) described.

2.7. The Non-Representable

The stage event, for that matter, is not always easy to describe because the signs of the acting in current practice are often tiny, almost imperceptible and always ambiguous, if not unreadable: intonations, gazes, restrained rather than manifest gestures are so many fleeting moments where meaning is suggested, but difficult to read and scarcely externalised. How do we notice signs which are scarcely materialised, if not by intuition and by a 'body to body', sensory-driven experience of the performance? The rather unscientific and unsemiological term, energy, can be useful in an attempt to determine what this non-representable phenomenon is: by his presence, movement, and phrasing, the actor or dancer releases an energy which directly reaches the spectator. Such a quality makes all the difference and contributes to the whole aesthetic experience as well as the development of meaning. In reaction to a hegemonic, visual culture of the obvious, we are trying here to identify the non-representable which is essentially, but not exclusively, the invisible, as rhythm, that which is heard, or kinesthetically perceived, i.e beyond over obvious visual signs or units that are largely visible. Here we must read the body, as does Foster (1988: 58), as that of a dancer, for example:

Literacy in the dance begins with seeing, hearing and feeling how the body moves. The of dances must learn to see and feel rhythm in movementto comprehend the three-dimensionality of the body, to sense its anatomical capabilities and its relation to gravity, to identify the gestures and shapes made by the body, and even to re-identify them when they are performed by different dancers. The reader must also notice changes in the tensile qualities of movement - the dynamics and effort with which it is performed - and be able to trace the path of dancers from one part of the performance area to another.

4. See Tzvetan Todorov,Théorie des formalistes russes., Paris, Seuil, 1965. [Up]

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AS/SA Nº3, Article 1 : Page 12 / 16

© 1997, AS/SA

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