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Generating Theatre Meaning

A Theory and Methodology of Performance Analysis

Eli Rozik is professor emeritus of theatre studies. Twice head of the Department of Theatre Studies and until recently Dean of the Faculty of the Arts at Tel Aviv University, he specialises in theatre theory, particularly in non-verbal communication in performance analysis. He has published numerous scientific articles in international leading journals, in Europe and the USA, and Metaphor in Theatre and Poetry (1981), The Language of the Theatre (1991), Elements of Play Analysis (1992) and The Roots of Theatre Rethinking Ritual and Other Theories of Origin (2002).

This book offers a theory and methodology of performance analysis as an alternative to traditional play-analysis. The underlying theme is that theatre performance is a descriptive text generated by the theatre medium and that the process of generating meaning takes place in the actual encounter between a theatre performance and the spectator. Many new understandings result, including how the theatre medium is iconic in the new sense of operating images of real or mental models, and how this impacts on the verbal text and stage metaphor; how poetic principles structure fictional worlds and bestow unity and wholeness on performance-texts; how a dialogue between implied director and implied spectator is inscribed in the performance-text; and how the implied spectator is characterized by functions of framing, reading, interpreting and experiencing a performance-text. It follows that actors’bodies on stage fulfil functions of textuality, metatheatricality, personification, characterization and aesthetic effect.

An Introduction surveys major contributions made to a methodology of performance analysis, particularly throughout the twentieth century, and problematizes the main issues. Part I is devoted to the semiotic substratum of the performance-text, i.e. to the theatre medium and its basic means of generating theatre texts and meaning. The innovation of this approach lies in seeing theatre first and foremost as a nonverbal medium. Part II deals with the poetic structure of fictional worlds described by the theatre medium and the metaphoric and rhetoric structures that operate on the level of relationship between the description of such a world and the world of a spectator. Part III contains analyses of actual performance-texts that illustrate the application of principles previously presented.

This is the first comprehensive book to address the necessity of a methodology of performance analysis and take issue with criticism of traditional theatre semiotics.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-252-5
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $75.00
Release Date: December 2007
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-330-0
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $34.95
Release Date: September 2010
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction: State of the Art and Perspectives
Main schools and trends
The formalist movement
The Prague Linguistic Circle
Roman Ingarden
The semiotic school
Post-semiotic criticism
The IFTR Performance Analysis Working Group
Main theoretical topics
Textual nature of the theatre performance
Descriptive nature of the performance-text
Imagistic nature of the theatre medium
Basic convention of the theatre medium
Univocal nature of theatre units
Segmentation of the performance-text
The principle of acting: deflection of reference
Theatrical nature of the play-script
Poetic structure of the fictional world
Metaphoric nature of the fictional experience
Rhetoric structure of the theatre experience
Role of the implied director
Role of the implied spectator
A phenomenology of theatre
Structure of the book

Part I Semiotic Substratum
1 The Imagistic Nature of Iconicity
Imagistic thinking: from Nietzsche to neuroscience
Iconicity: image imprinting and language mediation
The basic convention of theatre
Explanatory power of the imagistic approach
Typical iconic units
Real objects on stage
Stage metaphor
Stage convention

2 Segmentation of Performance-texts
Segmentation of real interaction
Ingarden’s view of fictional verbal interaction
The pragmatic approach of Serpieri et al.
Segmentation of iconic interaction
Segmentation of stage objects
Segmentation of iconic interaction in Habimah’s The Seagull

3 Stage Metaphor and Symbol
A theory of verbal metaphor
Stage metaphor
Speech act stage metaphor
Stylistic implications of mixed stage metaphor
Stage allegory
Mediation by abstraction
Mixed praxical and allegoric discourse
Stage symbol

4 Stage Conventions
Reading principles
Kinds of stage conventions
Medium conventions
Imagistic conventions
Functions of stage conventions
Semiotic functions
Poetic functions
Norms and styles

5 Acting: The Quintessence of Theatre
Deflection of reference
Expanded notions of ‘actor’, ‘text’ and ‘character’
Existential gaps between text and two worlds
The fundamental gap between real action and enacting action
Experiencing the performers’ bodies

6 The Theatrical Nature of the Play-script
Two kinds of theatre texts
The literary fallacy
Play-script analysis
Intertextual relations between performance-text and play-script

Part II Additional Strata and Disciplines
7 The Poetic Structure of the Fictional World
The twofold structure of the performance-text
Archetypal patterns of response
The stratified structure of the fictional world
Mythical layer
Praxical layer
Naïve layer
Ironic layer
Aesthetic layer
Structure of the character
Possible fallacies
Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

8 The Metaphoric Nature of the Fictional Experience
The metaphoric principle
The expressive nature of fictional worlds
The principle of personification
The apparent double reference of the performance-text
The mechanism of textual metaphor
Poetic implications
Metaphor in dramatic practice
Sophocles’ Oedipus the King (continued)
Yerushalmi’s Jephthah’s Daughter

9 The Rhetoric Structure of the Theatre Experience
The pragmatic nature of speech interaction
The pragmatic nature of stage/audience interaction
Descriptive nature of the performance-text
Performative nature of the performance-text
Equivalence agent/director and object/spectator
Notion of ‘macro-speech act’
Rhetoric nature of the stage/audience interaction
Yerushalmi’s Jephthah’s Daughter(continued)

10 The Implied Director
Hermeneutic vs. creative interpretation
The mechanism of creative interpretation
Fidelity, creativity, and legitimacy
Creative interpretation and intertextuality
Productions of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
The play-script
Creative interpretations of Waiting for Godot

11 The Implied Spectator
Real vs. implied spectator
Roles of the implied spectator
Yerushalmi’s Woyzeck 91
Framing a performance-text
Reading a performance-text
Interpreting a performance-text
Experiencing a performance-text
Dialogue between implied director and implied spectator

12 A Phenomenology Theatre
States’ phenomenological approach
Alternative phenomenological approaches
Functions of actors’ bodies on stage
Aesthetic effect
Life Class: a personal experience
Theatre vs. performance art

Part III Examples of Performance Analysis
13 A Transient Shadow: A Silent Description of a Speaking Fictional World
Reading A Transient Shadow
Interpreting A Transient Shadow
Principles of non-verbal description
Inherently non-verbal acts
Symbolic non-verbal acts
Metonymic non-verbal acts
Metaphoric non-verbal acts
Metaphoric hand gestures
Allegoric characters
Projected titles

14 Suz/o/Suz by La Fura dels Baus: Theatre at the Borderline
The notion of ‘performance’
The notion of ‘actual’
Performing an action vs. enacting an action
Suz/o/Suz by La Fura dels Baus

15 Habimah’s The Trojan Women: A Ready-made Metaphor of Unjustified War
Euripides’ The Trojan Women and its Homeric sources
Sartre’s adaptation: Les Troyennes
Habimah’s production of Les Troyennes

16 Robert Wilson’s H.G: Non-theatrical Space as Stage
Reading H.G.
On the legitimacy of interpretation
An attempt at interpretation
The warren – a found-space metaphor

17 Yerushalmi’s Woyzeck: Intention
in Creative Interpretation
Büchner’s Woyzeck
Yerushalmi’s Woyzeck

18 Methodological Conclusions
Aims of performance analysis
Means of performance analysis
Theoretical focus
Personal experience
Use of video recording
Abridged account
Intuition of structure and meaning
Independent performance analysis
The disciplines of performance analysis
Excludes disciplines

List of Cited Works

Culminating his decades-long work in theatre studies, Rozik offers a far-ranging work that unites and intertwines theatre semiotics, phenomenology, and performance theory. He calls the play-script a “deficient text” that “presupposes its final performance.” This “performance-text” focus does still require semiotic analysis, but semiotics is a “substratum” of performance that requires “other structural strata, which require additional poetic, aesthetic, and rhetoric disciplines of research” for a full understanding. The book opens with a dense, precise, state-of-the-art introduction, and the author divides the chapters that follow into three parts: “Semiotic Substratum,” “Additional Strata and Disciplines,” and “Examples of Performance Analysis.” The most engaging is the last, in which Rozik looks at Robert Wilson’s H.G., Habimah’s production of Euripedes’ The Trojan Women, and Woyzeck 91, directed by Rina Yerushalmi. Rozik’s detailed, unified, ‘scientific’ methodology requires a patient reader, but the effort will be rewarding: the study is thorough, intelligent, and willing to challenge the acclaimed giants of the semiotic tradition. Of interrelated interest are Rozik’s engagement with J. L. Austin’s speech-act theory, Bert O. States’s phenomenology, and Richard Schechner’s performance theory. Highly recommended.

Eli Rozik has been at the forefront of the development of the analysis of performance for over two decades and is one of the world leaders in developing a paradigm shift within theatre studies away from the studies of play-texts to the text that is performance. This new book, while situating semiotics within a range of possible theoretical tools, charts the development of the theories of performance analysis that have developed from the early semiotic applications.
Brian Singleton, former editor of Theatre Research International, and president of the International Federation of Theatre Research; Trinity College, Dublin

Eli Rozik has written a comprehensive and brilliant study of performance analysis. His book joins a long tradition of scholarship on the performance codes of theatre, stretching from the Prague Linguistic School of the 1930s to contemporary writings in theatre semiotics, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and audience response theory… Drawing upon an impressive range of knowledge, from philosophy and neuroscience to rhetoric and literary aesthetics, Rozik delivers a rich and complex investigation of theatre performance, written in a clear, forceful style.
Thomas Postlewait, editor of Studies in Theatre History, School of Drama, University of Washington

Rozik has developed a semiotic performance analysis that takes into account the variety of ways in which the same play can be presented, treating each performance as a unique event with its own semiotic substrata. Rozik applies his method to several different performances. They are diverse as to place presented and in the form they take, from wordless theatre to installation to “traditional” scripted plays. He considers the play itself, the actors, director and setting making these many units into a concrete whole.
Reference & Research Book News

Rooted in and proceeding from semiotics, he [Rozik] extends his investigation to other fields, such as rhetoric, poetics, aesthetics, and phenomenology. The book provides stimulating impulses for new ideas and approaches related to theater performances, which contribute to the solution of numerous problems that have haunted theater theoreticians for decades.
... Rozik argues with unwavering lucidity and conviction that a semiotic approach alone will never suffice with regard to performance analysis. It must be extended to include all the fields dealt with [in this book], focusing in particular on rhetoric. In both parts, the problems and the suggested solutions are formulated with acumen and an admirably clarity of language that allows the reader to follow each argument and the nature of each outlined problem as the suggested solution.
... In terms of the definition of a theater performance given [in this book], the innovations provided by this study in theory and performance analysis are numerous, many of them opening up completely new perspectives.
... This brilliant book is an absolute must-read for anyone who wishes to analyze performances not only intuitively, but also systematically and on the basis of a sound methodology. Because of its systematic structure, the plausibility of its arguments, and its clear language, it is relevant not only to specialists but also to students. … It is certain that this book is a landmark in the field of performance analysis.
... In conclusion, this brilliant book is an absolute must-read for anyone who wishes to analyze performances not only intuitively, but also systematically and on the basis of a sound methodology. Because of its systematic structure, the plausibility of its arguments and its clear language, it is relevant not only to specialists but also to students. Whoever teaches a class on performance analysis will be well advised to use this book. It will help students of theater and performance studies to understand and locate the problems of performance analysis and provide them with the tools to help them find solutions. It is certain that this book is a landmark in the field of performance analysis
Prof. Erika Fischer-Lichte (Freie Univestät Berlin), Comparative Drama, Vol. 43, No. 1, Spring 2009

Rozik’s book is not free of controversial or provocative statements. But they never fail to be the result of a serious approach and deep insight. I cannot imagine any serious theoretical discussion of theatre, without taking Eli Rozik’s impressive volume into account. Even if one does not agree with Rozik, the fascinating ways in which he constructs and directs his argumentation, both in theory and performance analysis, are always inspiring.
Prof. Jerzy Limon (University of Gdansk), Theatre Research International, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2009

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