Patrice Pavis: "The State of Current Theatre Research"


All of these tentative questions, as yet unanswered, clearly demonstrate how theory and performance analysis, in trying to unbolt every door, have moved away from a semiotics of communication and codes, and how little the semantic model of the sign and levels of meaning is adapted to contemporary performance. On the other hand, we already foresee a more flexible model for the working of signs and their vectors where the signifier is not sublimated into an immaterial signified, and where the guiding lines of the vectors are clearly indicated (the following chapters will come back to this): This vectorisation of desire - as much the desire of the body of the performance as that of the spectator - becomes a possible model for analysis, as soon as we are able to see vectorisation as that which organises the performance, opening it out to contradictory perspectives without confining it within a definitive structure.

In order for this model to develop further, the conditions for analysis and the most appropriate theoretical fields for it to be put to use most effectively need to be outlined.

3. Updating Theory

The fundamental question in any analysis is to know why and for whom we are doing the analysis and which method is the most suitable. Whereas the review in the printed or audiovisual media is addressed to a large audience which wishes above all to be informed and advised, the semiological review, which demands a longer time for reflection and a more sophisticated conceptual apparatus, is practically always addressed to other theatre theorists and intellectuals, to other colleagues entrenched in the same somewhat frosty, studious or fetishistic relationship with the stage. Theatre artists are rarely users of analysis, either through fear of being 'revealed,' through a vague fear of theory or some primal anti-intellectualism, through disinterest or lack of time or curiosity. The question is not how to interest them in our theories, but - all modesty aside - how will our theories influence their practice in the same way that their practice has given rise to our theories. To this tragic misunderstanding is added the fact that research is nearly always carried out in isolation by a group of specialists working within the same critical tradition, often unaware of other traditions. It is well known that between French semiology, Dutch empiricism, Swedish audience reception studies, English pragmatism, German hermeneutics or Italian historiography, there is practically no exchange. Alas, poor Erasmus.
Despite all these obstacles and the rather discouraging list of unanswered questions above, it seems that analysis, 'twenty years on,' could begin over again on more solid ground if we were to take advantage of some well established, sophisticated disciplines like sociology and anthropology which have almost always been developed far from the concrete case of texts and performances. We will limit ourselves as a reminder to listing five fields of research which are best discussed using concrete analyses as found in various other chapters in the book.

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AS/SA Nº3, Article 1 : Page 13 / 16

© 1997, AS/SA

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