Text and Performance: Semiotic Analysis for
Dramaturgy and the Development of Production Concepts
Terry Donovan Smith
Advisor: Sarah Bryant-Bertail
Source: DAI, 57, no. 12A, (1996): 4986
This dissertation develops methods of performance
and textual analysis. In Part One, I read performances; in Part Two I analyze a
text for production. In both, I work with theories of semiotics and
structuralism. My goals include giving the reader a compendium of tools that,
while attainable elsewhere, have not been gathered
under one cover in quite this manner.
One. Chapter I identifies a theory of semiotics as it pertains to theatre,
defining terms specifically for theatrical application. Working with C. S.
Peirce's fundamental trichotomy--icon, index, and symbol--and the notions of
linguistic signification developed by Saussure, I define theatre as an attempt
to create a performance "autocommunication" (Yuri M. Lotman). Roland
Barthes's notion of rereading is applied to the processes of production
development and performance reception. Chapter II continues to focus the
theories developed in Chapter I by applying semiotic and phenomenological
notions of Peirce to selected work of Peter Brook. Chapter III applies Lotman's
notions of autocommunication through an.anthropologically oriented semiotic
reading of Ping Chong's Undesirable Elements/Seattle. Chapter IV applies M. M.
Bakhtin's concept of the "chronotope" to Peter Sellars's production
of Don Giovanni.
Two. Using the ideas demonstrated in Part One and
others adapted from the work of Anne Ubersfeld, Chapter V lays out a
dramaturgical methodology for play production. Chapter VI applies this methodology
to Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, specifically reading the text for production
and developing a concept for production. The Afterword examines the efficacy
and implications of the dissertation.
overall goal is to demonstrate the applicability of an integrated semiotic
theory to performance analysis and theatrical production. It is hoped that
others will take the notions worked out here and apply them to their own work
as theatre practitioners. My conclusions are that, with an understanding of the
basic process of creating and receiving meaning, applying conventional research
methods and these analytical tools to text can enable the analyst to reach
"inspiration"--which may be nothing more than the ability to
"see" the possibilities of manifesting the text.