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ON READERS, SPECTATORS AND CRITICS LOUISE FOTHERGILL-PAYNE University of Calgary This year one of the highlights of the «Festival de teatro del siglo de oro» in Chamizal was the performance of La Celestina, followed by a lengthy discussion during the Symposium the morning after. Both performance and critical reaction caused a certain amount of controversy which, in tum, made me reflect on the nature of Literature, Theatre and Criticism. Only when we are confronted with a live performance of a literary work are we made to realize the enormous difference between the written page and its dramatic presentation and, for that matter, the role of the reader in contrast to that of the spectator. The reader is free to enjoy the text in his own time and to study it from all angles in order to gradually come to an interpretation all his own. The spectator, however, has to surrender this right to a private interpretation of the text. This is now the prerogative of the director of the play who represents to his audience his own overall reading of the work. In fact, in a stage production, the only readers that really matter are the director and the players who have previously studied and interpreted the work according to their own sensibilities and preferences. However, given the limitations imposed on the director by the time167 168BCom, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Summer 1985) space continuum of the theatre, he cannot bring out all the possible interpretations a text has to offer but has to select what for him is the most important aspect of the work on that occasion. On the other hand, the necessary elimination of certain aspects is more than made up for by all the visual and auditive elements of a stage performance. The semiotics of the word are, in fact, at the core of any live theatre and distinguish it from the purely literary text. Scenery, lighting, dress, music, action and gestures, tone of voice, mime and silent play, to mention only a few signals, give special meaning to the text and bring out the director's own artistic vision. Because of this extra dimension, Theatre leaves the realm of Literature to enter that of Art. With his production of La Celestina, Xose Blanco Gil, Director of the Teatro Iberico do Lisboa, gave an interpretation which thoroughly moved his audience. Most spectators felt themselves completely swept up in the fateful chain of events as a result of the superb acting of the players and a setting that was entirely the creation of the Director. Instead of placing the action in a realistic Medieval environment, Blanco Gil chose to surround the stage with a chorus of black figures whose only distinguishing features were ragdoll replica's of the doomed characters which they systematically stabbed and progressively destroyed. The punitive character of these mysterious figures was, moreover, enhanced by Celestina's ball of thread which had come into their hands and which they subsequently wove into a web, a chain, a rosary and a fatal bridal garland. Some spectators saw the figures as witches, hand-maidens of Celestina's hidden powers, others saw in them personifications of Death, others felt they symbolized the oppressive forces of a social and religious dictatorship, while for others, of more classical bent, they were the Fates spinning their inexorable thread of life and death. Since the background's symbolism allowed for more than one interpretation, this side of the production delighted and impressed everybody in the audience . However, during the discussion the next day, it became clear that Blanco Gil's reading of the written text had not always exactly matched that of all participants in the Symposium. For instance, his emphasis on the sexuality of the conflict upset those who would have preferred a more romantic version. His portrayal of Celestina as a dominant but very human woman disappointed others who had conceived her as a witch in league with the devil. For yet others Areusa's role as nothing but a vulgar prostitute failed to bring out her independent spirit, and finally, Fothergill-Payne169 the extended love-scene in Melibea's garden in contrast to the virtual elimination of...


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