- Generating Theatre Meaning: A Theory and Methodology of Performance Analysis
Eli Rozik is among the leading scholars in the field of theater theory and performance analysis and a cofounder of the International Federation for Theatre Research working group on performance analysis. His new book, Generating Theatre Meaning: A Theory and Methodology of Performance Analysis, presents the culmination of Rozik’s insights and findings generated not only by his research of the last ten years but by his lifelong reflections on the problem of how to deal most appropriately and fruitfully with theater performances. Rooted in and proceeding from semiotics, he 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.
The book follows a highly systematic structure, which includes an introduction and three parts. The introduction offers a thorough and concise survey of the main schools, trends, and theoretical topics pertaining to theater semiotics and performance analysis. It summarizes the most important contributions to the field thus far but also clearly points to their inherent deficiencies, which Rozik’s study aims to overcome.
Part 1, entitled “Semiotic Substratum,” discusses the most important theoretical issues within theater semiotics, such as the problem of iconicity, the question of segmentation, and the related question of the possible units of a performance; stage metaphor and symbol, stage conventions and their particular functions; acting as the quintessence of theater and the nature of the play-script as well as its relationship to performance. Rozik suggests and develops a new approach for each of these fields. At the same time, he adeptly tackles the problems inherent in performance analysis which cannot be adequately dealt with despite the new approaches because they cannot be solved solely on the basis of semiotics.
Accordingly, part 2, “Additional Strata and Disciplines,” is devoted to such problems. Each is discussed within the framework of another discipline. Hence, the poetic structure of the fictional world is discussed in terms of the metaphorical nature of the fictional experience as well as the rhetorical structure of the theater experience, the implied director, the implied spectator, and, finally, phenomenological approaches. In this part, Rozik establishes a particular hierarchy that places rhetoric at the top and the other disciplines, such as semiotics, poetics, and aesthetics, below. Rozik argues with unwavering lucidity and conviction that a semiotic approach alone will never suffice with regard to performance [End Page 123] analysis. It must be extended to include all the fields dealt with here, focusing in particular on rhetoric. In both parts, the problems and their suggested solutions are formulated with acumen and an admirable clarity of language that allows the reader to follow each argument and the nature of each outlined problem as well as the suggested solution.
In part 3, five performance analyses are presented, each focusing on one of the principles explained in the two preceding sections. These include the principle of nonverbal description, the problem of distinguishing theater from performance art, the use of real spaces, the question of the so-called universality of a text, or the relationship between play-script and performance. By applying those specific principles, each chapter tests their usefulness and scope. These sections are anticipated by a number of shorter analyses in the various chapters of parts 1 and 2.
The three parts are followed by methodological conclusions, starting with the interdependence of the aim of performance analysis and the choice of a method, which has been so brilliantly illustrated by the analyses in part 3. The means of performance analysis are once more listed and summarized at this point in order to formulate a clear stance regarding the disciplines that should be included or ignored in any performance analysis.
To profit from the arguments and insights proposed in this groundbreaking study, the reader must accept the concept of theater outlined in it, at least for the duration of the reading process...