What is the Theatre? 1st Edition, by Christian Biet, Christophe Triau

What is the Theatre?, Routledge, 2019, 616 pages

Première édition chez Routledge de la traduction en langue anglaise de Qu’est-ce que le théâtre ?, de Christian Biet et Christophe Triau (Gallimard, 2006).

“Le théâtre est d’abord un spectacle et un genre oral, une performance éphémère, la prestation d’un comédien devant des spectateurs qui regardent, un travail corporel, un exercice vocal et gestuel, le plus souvent dans un lieu particulier et dans un décor particulier. Il n’est pas nécessairement lié à un texte préalablement écrit ni publié. Pour comprendre ce qu’est le théâtre, et particulièrement pour saisir ses évolutions les plus récentes, il convient donc de toujours mêler les points de vue qui le constituent – les spectateurs, les metteurs en scène, les dramaturges, les scénographes, les régisseurs, les acteurs, les auteurs, les lecteurs enfin. Car le jeu du théâtre n’a cessé, depuis les origines, de mobiliser des individus historiquement, socialement, hiérarchiquement, topologiquement hétérogènes. L’histoire longue révèle que les choix des lecteurs, des auteurs, des acteurs et des spectateurs ont considérablement varié et se sont, dans une même période, généralement opposés. C’est aujourd’hui évident : après un ” âge d’or ” du genre dramatique, le retournement contemporain d’un théâtre sans illusion veut que le metteur en scène donne au spectateur quelques matériaux à partir desquels ce dernier devra créer son propre point de vue. La situation du théâtre contemporain – une phase parmi d’autres – se saisit dans une perspective qui mobilise les histoires de l’architecture, de la littérature et de la voix, de la représentation et de l’écriture, des esthétiques et des idéologies, du statut des acteurs et de l’économie des loisirs. Une approche en quelque sorte à l’image de certaines pièces : totale.”

Table of Contents

What is the Theatre?

INTRODUCTION

Points of view

The spectator

The author

The dramaturg

The director

The set designer

The stage manager

The actor

The readers

I. What does it mean to go to the theatre?

Together with others or one among many?

Theatre and performance

1. SITES AND SPACES : DEFINITIONS

Sites

The spaces

Text as site and text as space

Organising space through signs

The actor and their presence

2. THE THEATRICAL SPACE: A CONCRETE SPACE

Theatre and urbanism

The open space

The principle of the procession

The infiltration principle

Locating the closed space

Seventeenth- to eighteenth-century London

The end of the Boulevard du Crime: nineteenth-century Paris

La Cartoucherie de Vincennes in the 1970s

Recycling and re-appropriating buildings in the twentieth century

The evolution of places

Memory and repetition

3. ARCHITECTURE

The illusion of creating illusion

II. The evolution of material and representational spaces

4. SOME THEATRICAL SITES AND SPACES

The Greek skênographia

The scaena and the Roman spectacle

Medieval scenography: nowhere and everywhere

The scaffold theatre and the trestle stage: integrative function versus critical function

Short digression : the amateur theatre in the contemporary moment

A story of thresholds rather than of ruptures

Elizabethan theatre and the so-called “wooden O”

The “classic” French theatrical space: a rectangle

At the courts

In the cities

Italian-style theatre

Make way for the visible!

Scenography

Promoting attention

5. THE ART OF PERSPECTIVE AND THE SOCIAL SPACE

Italy, the “Prince’s eye” and Europe

The secularised space

The building and the session as spaces of socialisation

Line and circle: traditional double cone and multiple angles

Back to reality

The line and the circle: the depiction of infinity transcended by the infinity of words

Places, spaces, two spectacles, and the distance effect

Reforming theatre from the building out: from d’Aubignac to Luigi Riccoboni

The experience of the fourth wall: dramatic theatre

The closed space instituted by dramatic theatre

The crisis of drama

6. STAGE AS PLACE AND STAGE AS SPACE

Rupture: the invention of the director, the total space of a total work

“Epic” theatre/dramatic theatre

The boundaries of the theatrical space

The dramatic space: a replica?

III. How to act at the theatre? How the theatrical space functions

The work of practitioners

Two senses out of five?

7. DESCRIPTION AND VOCABULARY OF THE TRADITIONAL THEATRE SITE

A traditional stage

The fly system

The proscenium

The curtain

The proscenium arch

The stage

The cyclorama

The trap room

8. OTHER STAGES, OTHER APPARATUSES

Referential systems and innovations

Notes on bi-frontal staging

9. THE COORDINATES OF THE STAGE

A space more or less filled, more or less closed

10. THE TECHNICAL AND MATERIAL ELEMENTS OF THE STAGING SPACE

The floor

Lighting

Sounds and silence

Scenery, objects and stage props

Costumes

Masks and make-up

11. ON THE DANGER OF INTERPRETING EVERYTHING

The pleasure of the audience

IV. Time, Rhythm, Tempo

The time of the session

Stage time and dramatic time

The plasticity of time

The succession of sequences, the condensation of the 24-hour period, and the transition to timelessness

Play, rythm, staging

V. The body, the actor’s play, and illusion

Where is the body?

Ostensible presence, exhibited communication

The handling and history of codes

The game of signs

When one body hides another: the virtual body of the character

The dual utterance of the two bodies of the actor

From space, time and body, to representation

Illusion and identification

Continuity / discontinuity

Consecutivity, simultaneity: a necessary disillusion?

The blurring of the real and the virtual: delirium

Illusion and autistic performance

Theatrical illusion and cinematic illusion

The negative impact of theatre on the viewer and on the world

Seduction and utility of theatre: the thorny issue of “catharsis”

Spectacle, reading and judgement

VI. The reader of theater texts

The appearance of the book and its pages

The oral text and the act of reading

Literariness, utterance and dramatic reading

Haphazard reading and the reading of a story

Places, spaces and the readers’ time

The indexical reading of places, spaces and times

From reading time and space to the reading of a fable

Reading discourse and the constitution of characters

The test of the title

What is at stake here?

From general reading to reading of plot

From the plot to actantial narrative schema

From dramaturgical reading to dramaturgy

VII. Staging: traditions, concerns

Writing for the theatre today

Memory and forgetting

12. THE AGE OF ALL POWERS

The meaning mill

Rereading the “classics”: the issue of interpretation

The classics as a symptom: a prospective overview

The image factory

The actor as a collective body

The actor as an individual body

Between tradition and invention: the play of forms

Triumphant theatricality

“A relative totality”

13. THE EXPERIENCE OF RELATIVITY

The “emancipation of representation”

Excess/void: Matthias Langhoff/Klaus-Michael Grüber

Collage, montage, hybridisation, performance

Kantor as an emblem

Armand Gatti, another emblem

14. THEATRICALITY QUESTIONED: A THEATRE WITHOUT ILLUSION ?

Contestations

Other aspirations, other practices

Crisis of representation, crisis of meaning

Showing writing: another relationship with the text

The actor exposed

From the legibility of crisis to the questioning of perception

The troubled perception

Theatre of presence and theatre of non-representation

Experiencing the theatrical relationship and the present-ness of the stage: theatricality unveiled

Choral aspirations

Decentring representation, diffracting reception: form as medium

Other distances, other presences

Deconstructing/reconstructing theatricality

“The postdramatic”

CONCLUSION

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