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Reading Theatre

Reading Theatre

Translated by Frank Collins
Paul Perron
Patrick Debbèche
  • Book Info
    Reading Theatre
    Book Description:

    Ubersfeld show how formal analysis can enrich the work of theatre practioners and offers a reading of the symbolic structures of stage space and time as well as opening up mulitple possibilities for interpreting a play's line of action.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7902-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    Students and practitioners of the theatre are generally aware of Anne Ubersfeld’s important theoretical contributions to the study of dramatic texts and performance. The originality of her work undoubtedly stems from the fact that she has practised a number of professions linked to the theatre, and the experience gained in each one supplements the others. She was director of theInstitut d’études théâtrales, at the University of Paris-Sorbonne; for several years she directed amateur theatre companies; she was a theatre critic forl’Humanité,France Nouvelle, andRévolution. As a literary historian she has written numerous learned articles and major studies,¹...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-2)

    Everyone knows – or accepts as truth – that you cannot read theatre. Professors are not unaware of this. Almost inevitably they know the anguish of explaining or trying to explain a textual document to which the key lies outside itself. Actors and directors embrace this truth more than anyone else and they view all academic explanations, which they see as unwieldy and useless, with scorn. Ordinary readers accept this wisdom as well. Whenever they take a stab at it, they realize the difficulty of reading a text that most decidedly does not appear to be intended for reading the...

  6. I. Text-Performance
    (pp. 3-31)

    Theatre is a paradoxical art. To go even further, we might see in theatre the very art of paradox; it is literary production and concrete performance at the same time. Theatre is both eternal (indefinitely reproducible and renewable) and of the instant (never reproduced identically). It is an art involving instances of performance that are bound to a given moment or day and cannot be the same the next day. At the extreme, theatre may be an art whose creation involves only one performance, one fulfilment, as was Antonin Artaud’s wish inThe Theater and Its Double(Artaud 1958). It...

  7. II. The Actantial Model in Theatre
    (pp. 32-71)

    Where might we begin? That is the key question asked by Barthes (Barthes 1970), the question which must precede all semiological research. Of course, it is theoretically possible to begin the study of the theatrical text with discourse analysis. However, given the length of a theatrical text, we would have to use a sampling from that text, and the use of a sampling would mean that any research into character-specific discourse would be an illusion. Further, it seems that the reading of a theatrical text by a reader and by a spectator is accomplished only at the level of the...

  8. III. The Character
    (pp. 72-93)

    The theatrical character is in crisis. This is not new. But it is not hard to see that the situation is getting worse. Carved up, exploded into pieces, scattered among various interpretations, its discourse brought into question, reduplicated yet dispersed, the theatrical character has been spared no mistreatment at the hands of dramatic writing or directing.

    Even when we are dealing with character in classical theatre, whose existence (at least virtual) no one denies, an analysis of character results in its atomization. Whether we seeactant,actor, orrolein the concept of character, contemporary semiology sees character as the...

  9. IV. Theatre and Space
    (pp. 94-125)

    If the primary characteristic of theatre is the use of characters played by human beings, the second characteristic, indissolubly linked to the first, is the existence of a space within which those living beings are found. The activity of these humans takes place within a certain locus and creates among them (and between them and the spectators) a three-dimensional relationship.

    1/In this respect, theatre is unique and should not to be confused with recitation or story. In this respect also, text and performance differ the most and the specificity of the theatrical text and theatrical practice is most obvious. We...

  10. V. Theatre and Time
    (pp. 126-157)

    The fundamental question posed by the theatrical text concerns the manner in which it is inscribed within time. We have seen that there are two spaces, an off-stage space and on-stage space; the mediated area between them is a zone in which signs are inverted, a zone which is the audience’s area. Likewise the phenomenon of theatre demonstrates two distinct temporalities: the time it takes for a performance to be completed (one or two hours, or more in certain cases or certain cultures), and the time pertaining to the represented action. Clearly,theatrical timecan be understood as the relationship...

  11. VI. Theatrical Discourse
    (pp. 158-188)

    What do we mean by theatrical discourse? We can define it as the totality of linguistic signs produced by a given theatrical work.¹ But that definition is too vague and has more to do with the set of theutterancesof a theatrical text than with discourse itself as textual production: ‘The utterance is a succession of sentences sent between two semantic blanks; discourse is utterance considered from the point of view of the discursive apparatus that governs it’ (Guespin 1971, 10).

    An initial difficulty arises in connection with theatrical discourse: what are its limits and what, in theatrical activity,...

  12. A Prelude to Performance
    (pp. 189-192)

    We have tried to demonstrate that theatrical activity – although certain aspects may remain unclear, and although an intellectually and psychologically complex effort is required – can be analysed, like any other activity, with the help of procedures that are still of a rather rudimentary nature.

    What can be accomplished by our semiological analysis? It reminds us to pay attention to signs, to the text’s materiality with all its possible significations. These semiological procedures should be seen as prudent investigations that prevent us from leaping at the first meaning that suggests itself, from forgetting our true purpose and setting off...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 193-206)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-210)
  15. Index of Terms
    (pp. 211-212)
  16. Index of Authors and Titles
    (pp. 213-219)