Theatre Semiotics: Signs of Life | DeepDyve
The first part duplicates in many respects Fischer-Lichte's semiotic model of theatre what I have called earlier "the theatre of semiotics" -- although with more sensitivity to the problems which this approach creates. The notion of codes occupies a central position in both scholars' analytical strategies, thus focussing on the cognitive organizations and transactions implemented by performances. They are undoubtedly correct. However, the issue is whether this aspect is definitional. Upon reading their development, one cannot help notice that what they say about performance also applies to other types of social events which are not considered as "theatrical performances" in the contextual culture. A case in point is de Marinis' specification of "the two basic conditions that any theatrical events must fulfil in order to be included in the class (theatrical performance): (1) physical co-presence of sender and receiver, and (2) simultaneity of production and communication"(137). These conditions may be useful to distinguish, in communicational terms, theatre from cinema and television, but they apply to such an array of other social events that they are actually trivial with respect to the type of performance which is the focus of de Marinis' attention. This is a general reproach which can be addressed to the semiotic of the past decades. The communication model -- more particularly Jakobson's version -- acted as a revelator by showing how a wide range of events and objects which were previously considered unrelated could indeed be construed as communicative processes, but proved to be unable to account for the specificity of the classes of socio-cultural phenomena which map everyday experience. By contrast to Fischer-Lichte, whose general approach is confidently unproblematic, de Marinis seems acutely aware of this theoretical difficulty (e.g. 137-144) and attempts to come to term with it:
The Theatre of Semiotics - University of Toronto
De Toro begins with an examination of theatre discourse as linguistic expression and as semiosis, and differentiates theatre discourse from other forms of literary discourse and performance. He then thoroughly explores the relationship between the dramatic text and the performance text. A chapter devoted to theatre semiotics establishes how signification functions in drama and performance, in terms of Charles Sanders Peirce's trichotomy (icon, index, symbol). Final chapters focus on theatre reception (the emitter and receptor); the actantial model, and how it has evolved; and a semiological reflection on the history of the theatre. Theatre Semiotics provides a thorough argument for the place and the necessity of semiotics within the interpretive process of theatre.
It is symptomatic that "play", "plot", "drama", "narrative", "ideology" and "ritual" are given so little attention that these terms do not even appear in the index (334-336). The problem of what makes a successful performance as opposed to a failed one is not addressed either. If the author considered such issues to be beyond the scope of theatre semiotics, she should have stated her arguments at the outset of the book, if only because her position is obviously at odds with the general approach taken by other theater semioticians (e.g. Alter 1990, Carlson 1990, Helbo 1987, de Marinis 1993, Schechner 1985). She might have preempted this criticism by explicitly restricting her domain of inquiry to the semiotics of staging -- a title which may have been more appropriate for this book -- as did the Prague School semioticians who focused their analysis on gestures, costumes, props, objects and the like. But her prefatory claim is unambiguously more ambitious: "Theatre becomes a model of cultural reality in which the spectators confront the meanings of that reality (...) an act of self-presentation and self-reflection on the part of the culture in question" (10).