Patrice Pavis: "The State of Current Theatre Research"


1.3 Two Types of Analysis

Reporting-analysis could have live radio sports broadcasting as its model; such an analysis would comment on the performance in progress, as in a soccer game, indicating what is happening on stage between the 'players', highlighting their strategies, recording the result and 'goals' of both teams. This would mean approaching the performance 'from within,' in the heat of the action, reproducing the detail and impact of the events, experiencing there and then everything that moves the spectator throughout the performance, determining the punctum (Barthes, 1980) and how the spectator is emotionally and cognitively implicated in the dynamics of the acting, the waves of meaning and sensations which have been generated by the multiple, simultaneous signs.
Ideally, reporting-analysis should be carried out during the performance; the spectator reacts immediately and becomes conscious of his reactions just after he has expressed them; he notates the 'emotional punctuation,' both the punctuation of the mise en scène and his own reception of it. Although this practice is uncommon in a performance, apart from recording on a medical level the spectator's physiological or summary psychological reactions, such reporting nevertheless does penetrate the live experience, and observes in situ the spectator's reactions to the stage events. Most traces of these reactions are lost however, as in Western culture, the theatre spectator (at least the adult spectator) is not exactly permitted to express his impressions, reactions and thoughts during a performance; he is expected to wait until the end of the performance to express them. Therefore, an important part of these immediate impressions is lost for ever, or at least buried beneath a memory and rationalisation a posteriori of past emotions. One of the tasks of performance analysis is to note when and how such emotions arise and how they influence meaning and the senses. Dramatic criticism, insofar as it is immediate and spontaneous, sometimes retains a valuable trace of these early impressions when it describes the performance as a metaphor of first impressions.
Reconstruction-analysis, on the other hand, is a speciality of the West which is inclined to conserve and store documents and to maintain historical monuments. It is in some respect similar to historical reconstructions of past productions. It is always done post festum; it collects clues, relies or documents from the performance as well as artists' statements of their intentions which were written down during the performance's preparation and all mechanical recordings from all angles and in all possible forms. Such a studium (Barthes, 1980: 50) is endless, but the difficulty - as we shall see in chapter 2 - is to use all these documents in such a way so as to restore some of the audience's aesthetic experience. A performance, whether it dates from yesterday or the time of the Greeks, is lost forever, and we can no longer have an aesthetic experience of it nor have access to its living materiality. Henceforth, we must settle for a mediated and abstract relationship with the aesthetic object and aesthetic experience; it is a relationship which no longer allows for an examination of objective, aesthetic data, but which, at best, permits an understanding of the artist's intentions and their impact on the audience. Whether we are dealing with a production which has actually been seen by the analyst or a reconstruction of a past performance, we only really ever reconstruct a few of its main principles and not the authentic event. Once these principles are established, the performance text becomes an object of knowledge, a theoretical object substituted for that empirical object which was once the performance itself. However useful and important the statement of such principles, intentions or effects may be, they still cannot be considered as performance analysis; they serve rather as a theoretical framework which the analyst will use to relate in detail certain aspects of the performance.

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AS/SA Nº3, Article 1 : Page 3 / 16

© 1997, AS/SA

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