Presentation on theme: "Antar Abdellah. This chapter looks into texts designed for performance. Performance does not simply represent a change of mode from writing to speech."— Presentation transcript:
This chapter looks into texts designed for performance. Performance does not simply represent a change of mode from writing to speech. Any consideration of literature in performance needs to take account of how the text is performed, and this brings into play a range of factors such as manner of delivery, facial expression and body movement, dress, possibly scenery and lighting effects, that work alongside the verbal text and contribute to the meaning and literary value of the performance. Analyses of text in performance tend to be multimodal, looking at the combination of different verbal and nonverbal elements in the creation of meaning.
Furthermore, this chapter explores the stylistic analysis of dramatic texts, and a conventional distinction between literary text, production and performance will be highlighted. ‘Text’ tends to be found in one of two senses first, text considered outside of a particular performance. The object of analysis here is usually a play script, or any other written text such as a poem, story, and so on. This may have been written to be performed, or it may have developed out of performance. Second, there is the text uttered as part of the performance itself, whether or not this is pre-scripted.
Stylistic analysis of dramatic texts suggests that it is possible to gain a great deal from the analysis of a text outside of any performance of that text. This argument is made explicit in a discussion of dramatic text and performance by the stylistician Mick Short (1998, p. 7) arguing that ‘sensitive understandings of plays can be arrived at through “mere reading”’ and, furthermore, that ‘dramatic texts contain very rich indications as to how they should be performed’.
Mick Short's "Fawity Tower" was written as a television series and has a single widely recognized performance that is also freely available as a recording. It is likely that most people who read the script will be familiar with this performance. It may therefore be harder to separate this kind of script from its televised performance than it is to consider independently a play produced for the theatre, and which will have many different performances.
Mick Short [1989pp 8.9] lists the following points in support of his argument about the value of studying dramatic text independently of performance: 1 Directors and actors need to read and understand a script before performing it. 2 Each production of a play can be seen as the play plus an interpretation of it. - 3 If plays could only be understood in the theatre, it would be problematical to have any discussion of a play except by people who had seen the same production. - 4 Different productions of the same play do not necessarily constitute different interpretations - 5 There is pressure on modern directors and actors to ‘do something different’ with plays that have been put on many times before. - 6 There are further problems in restricting analysis/discussion to performance, since each performance of the same production of a play will differ in some respects from other performances.
7 Even if you haven’t seen or read a play before it is possible, in many respects, to distinguish the contribution of the playwright from the contributions of those involved in the production of the play. An audience can decide: (a) whether the production was a reasonable rendering of the play; (b) whether the play was a good play; (c) whether the theatrical experience was good or not. 8 There are advantages and disadvantages both in reading and watching plays. For instance, in reading a play you can imagine and try out different interpretations; this isn’t possible in watching a performed play, but the performance itself (acting, lighting, etc) can provide a more vivid experience of the play. (Adapted from Short, 1998, pp. 8—9)
In light of the above Short's arguments, it is possible to distinguish the scripted text of a play from its production and performance, and that study of the text alone is worthwhile and productive. Short also notes that it is possible to make judgments of value separately about plays and their production/ performance. Faithfulness to the text is not necessarily directly related to the perceived value of a performance. Short gives an example of a production of Shakespeare’s King John in which the actors pretended to be puppets but, for Short (1998, p. 9), still ‘an interesting and enjoyable theatrical experience’.
READING A In terms of dramatic text analysis, Vimala Herman analyses an extract from John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger. In fact, she borrows from conversation analysis researching spoken interaction and specifically its from. Conversation analysis is an approach to the study of natural conversation, especially with a view to determining the following: Participants’ methods of turn-taking constructing sequences of utterances across turns, identifying and repairing problems, and employing gaze and movement, how conversation works in different conventional settings, such as interviews, court hearings, telephone conversations.turnutterances In view of Swann et al [ 2004] conversation analysis (CA) is a tradition of enquiry concerned with the empirical study of ‘naturally occurring’ spoken interaction both formal and informal.
In CA, speech is viewed as a form of activity, and analysts investigate how participants ‘get things done’ interactionally: how they open and close conversations, manage the smooth exchange of speaking turns and carry out activities such as giving and accepting or rejecting an invitation. Conversation analysts are interested in the overall structure of conversation, its sequential organization, and how this is cooperatively managed by participants. Vimala Herman examines the concept of ‘the turn’: when someone speaks, they take a turn at speech, and when speech alternates, turns alternate as well. Drama as dialogue is a multi-input form, and this raises the issue of the distribution of turns and their management. After briefly reviewing the work of the Conversation Analysts, Herman considers the contribution that turn-taking patterns make to the understanding of situation and character in plays. She conducts an analysis of an extract from John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, and shows how turn-taking choices, such as who speaks to whom, length of turns, pauses, interruptions.. affect the reader’s interpretation of the characters’ speech.
“Turn” is the enactment of a speaker’s right to speak by taking an opportunity to speak in a speech event or situation. Turn-taking has been described as a process in which when participant A talks, then stops, participant B starts, talks, stops and so we obtain an A-B, A-B, A-B A-B distribution of talk across two participants. Dialogue is by far the most frequently types of speech in drama.
Vimala Herman’s analysis in "Look Back in Anger" play by Osborne investigates how turn-taking is organized between the different characters. According to Vimala Herman, turn-taking patterns indicate something about speakers, and therefore about characters in a play, for instance, a speaker who is consistently interrupted and unable to gain the floor may be seen as less powerful than other speakers. In "Look Back in Anger" Herman focuses on 4 aspects of turn-taking: turn-grabs’, ‘turn allocation’, turn order and ‘turn size and texture’:-
1-Turn-grabs Turn-grabs occur when one of the participants interposes himself or herself into an interaction uninvited and against the rights of the invited speakers. 2-Turn allocation Allocation implies allotment and distribution; thus, turn allocation occurs when a turn is allocated by the speaker’s selection of next speaker. 3-Turn order Turn order reveals unequal distribution of turns among those present. One participant among all the interactants appears to be central to all the interactions and the participant structures in force; all interactants address him or her, and,thus, acts as the focal point of their speech. 4-Turn size and texture This type of turn-taking is related to size of the turn of the participants, and it is specifically confined to the participant whose turns are occasionally longer throughout the interaction. It also refers to the multi-clause turns which such a dominant participant uses to develop or to intensify some personal points to be delivered to his interactants.
Plays are invariably intended to be performed, and artistic decisions need to be taken that will affect the literary value of the performance itself. Some of these relate closely to the verbal text of a play, but other aspects of staging, i.e. characters’ actions and activities, costumes, scenery, lighting affect how a play is received and understood, and will sometimes be more salient than the dialogue.
Patrice Pavis sees the production or staging as the bringing together of different signifying systems along with costumes, lighting, and so on. Dramatic dialogue therefore seems to be the product of stage utterance and at the same time the text used by the mise en scene to envisage a context of utterance in which the text acquires a meaning. For Pavis, however, the scripted text provides the starting point for a play as a work of art, and the starting point for meanings that may be conveyed. The text only acquires full meaning in performance The text only acquires full meaning in performance, after creative input from director, actors, and so on. In Pavis’s conception, it would make little sense to consider the literariness of a dramatic text independently of its performance. This suggests also that meanings may change with different mises-en-scène; more generally, the interpretation of a play is likely to shift over time and in different social or cultural contexts.
In contrast to Mick Short, Pavis sees the idea that a production should be faithful to a scripted text as ‘pointless’, as it is based on the assumption that the text has an ideal and fixed meaning, free from any social, cultural or historical variations. Pavis uses as semiotic approach. Semiotics Semiotics a science dedicated to the study of production of meaning in society. As such it is equally concerned with the processes of signification and with those of communication, i.e. the means whereby meanings are both generated and exchanged. Its objects are thus at once the different sign systems and codes at work in society and the actual messages and texts produced thereby. Semiotics is often exploited in commercials. Semiotics has its roots in structuralism, deriving in part from the work of Ferdinand de Saussure. Theatrical performances are, then, the result of a set of production decisions regarding the choice of costumes, lighting effects, etc. Performances are conceived by theatre semioticians as carefully contrived ‘performance texts’ in which various sign systems work together to create meaning.
Maria Thomas suggests that play texts may be interpreted in a variety of ways, and ‘the same script will work differently in different productions and different performances of the same production’. This is not just a matter of how the play appears on stage. Likewise, it is a matter of audience perception. Maria Thomas claims that meaning is not a textual given, but is produced in a particular context and in interaction between actors and audience. This assumes that audience members may bring different interpretations to a performance depending on their cultural and linguistic experience.
Studies of verbal art that are primarily interested in performance tend to attach considerable importance to the context in which performances take place. dynamic connection between actor and audience ‘Context’ here includes the broad social, historical and cultural context within which performances are located ; as well as the dynamic connection between actor and audience in individual staged performances. Researching oral literature or folklore in non-European cultures is worth being considered. According to Ruth Finnegan, traditional (pre-1960s) approaches to folklore tended to focus on the collection and analysis of folklore texts. Richard Bauman , was concerned with the ‘ethnography of oral performance’, where verbal art was analyzed as a particular way of speaking within a particular cultural context.
Ruth Finnegan relates her research to the developments in anthropology and folklore, where, in the I960s and 1970s, the focus of attention in the study of storytelling and other forms of verbal art shifted from transcribed texts to contextualized performance. She illustrates these points with examples from her early research on Limba storytelling and performances of dub poetry by the Jamaican- Canadian poet Lillian Allen. Finnegan identifies several different poetic elements that she sees as contributing to the value of these performances: repetition, rhyme, rhythm, etc.; she also identifies paralinguistic features, such as pitch of voice, loudness, groans and sighs; the performer’s use of the body in facial expression, gesture, and other body movements.
audience In view of Ruth Finnegan,the performance may be tailored to a particular audience, and the audience also participates more actively in the performance through calling out and so on, which in turn will affect the follow-up words and actions of the main speaker. Finnegan therefore sees the audience as ‘co-creator’ of the performance. This highly active involvement would usually be less evident in performances of scripted plays, though audience response would still play a part. While Finnegan focuses on the analysis of particular performances, she also points to the importance of the wider cultural context in which these performances occur: ‘the specificities of historical and ideological setting. actor's appearance, activities and mode of delivery. Finnegan tries to convey the literary quality of performance by describing aspects of the performance event, highlighting features such as actor's appearance, activities and mode of delivery.
This chapter has investigated the stylistic analysis of scripted dramatic texts. oral literature Likewise, it has explored the analysis of text in performance including pre-scripted dramatic dialogue and oral literature that is created in performance. Perceptions and understandings of particular performances depend on the historical and cultural context in which the performances take place. However, performances change from one occasion to the next. tone of voice, gesture and stance, costume, lighting, scenery, and other aspects of staging This text has also discussed some aspects most closely associated with the verbal text, including a performer’s tone of voice, gesture and stance, costume, lighting, scenery, and other aspects of staging may also be important. performance space, seating, curtains Even things that are not on stage, such as the nature of the theatre or other performance space, seating, curtains and other decoration may affect the perceived quality of a performance.
Performances are also likely to be experienced differently by different audience members. Differing social, cultural and personal experiences will also give rise to different interpretations. In fact, the interaction between different aspects of performance are complex, work together to create meaning and contribute to whether or not a performance is highly valued. as tone of voice and facial expression Features such as tone of voice and facial expression may, for instance, extend the verbal text, emphasizing some aspect of characterization. They also complement the verbal text, providing additional layers of meaning, for example, about a character’s appearance, personality or state of mind. Different performances may offer alternative interpretations, highlighting certain potential meanings and playing down others.