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pursued the forest of signs that constitute a work, States would argue, it is time to put things back together in the performance moment, when we experience , in Merleau-Ponty's words, "the unmotivated upsurge in the world." For States, the essence of theatre art inheres in the "informational polyphony" of signs, which he takes to be the "dense context in which they interact and give life to each other." To preserve a wholeness in our theatrical experience, he examines theatre from complementary perspectives-The Stage (or Scene in the formal sense) and The Actor. His understanding of the actor in relation to the audience is based on the relations of speaker to listener, in which the actor employs three modes of address: the self-expressive, which has to do with virtuosity; the collaborative, in which the actor is seen as delegate or extension of the audience; and the representative, which is the domain of mimesis. "It is precisely our ability to integrate" these modes, he says, "or to arrest one or another of them in our perceptual attention that lends the unique depth and texture to the theatre experience." In his discussion of the stage-the Little Rooms of his title-he again pursues a triad: Shakespeare, the late-nineteenth century realists, and the postrealist avant-garde, exemplars of three essential forms of theatrical illusion . His finest insight, perhaps, is articulated as he reaches the climax of his discussion of stage space. In an effort to comprehend all that has gone on since Ibsen and Chekhov, he locates in an essay by Barthes the crucial feature of postrealist style. States calls it the theatre of the estranged sign, deriving from Barthes's notion that "revolutionary art must admit a certain arbitrary nature of signs." In other words, postrealist signs may be free to play with their relation to the world and even escape it. Elegant and compact in its writing, States's book is a lucid attempt to see things whole in an era when sheer diversity threatens to become an end in itself. Though he limits his discussion of current theatre to a few remarks, and he would appear to view the Artaud-Grotowski aesthetic as the last major statement in Western theatre, he demonstrates for us, implicitly at times, how the most urgent contemporary thinking links us with the past and illuminates present and past anew. William Coco Joseph Chaikin: Exploring at the Boundaries of Theatre Eileen Blumenthal Cambridge University Press, 261 pp.; $11.95 (paper), $34.50 (cloth) Joe Chaikin's exemplary status in American theatre rests more on his moral stature than his pragmatic achievements. Without denying the significance of these achievements-his memorable early performances with the Living Theatre and later ones in works by and with Beckett and Shepard, the innovative acting processes he evolved with the Open Theatre, the indelible 267 productions of The Serpent, Terminal, The Mutation Show, among others-we can most accurately designate his importance by what he did not-and will not-do: his refusal in the sixties to succumb to the simplistic pieties of the gospels of physical presence and political selfrighteousness , his persistent resistance to the blandishments of commercial success, his unwillingness to show work publicly until absolutely warranted , above all, his eternal drive to eliminate, simplify, distill. Though, more than any, he invented the vocabulary of the theatre ensemble, unlike many of his contemporaries, he has always spoken it with the utmost rigor. And he has pursued his restless explorations despite a personal history of severe illness that would have silenced a lesser man. Eileen Blumenthal's study definitively charts the dimensions of Chaikin's achievements as actor, director, master-teacher. The latter is probably the most notable of his roles, for it was Chaikin who translated the Living Theatre's experimental impulse into concrete acting methodology in the development of such exercises as "conducting," jamming," "breathing and talking together." It is a salient virtue of this book that it details Chaikin's workshop processes so thoroughly through the author's decade-long direct observation and extensive interviews with Chaikin and the members of his ensembles. The evolutions of such collaborative pieces as The Serpent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 267-268
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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