A sociosemiotic theory of theatre by Jean Alter

By Jean Alter

Analyzes the fundamental duality of theatre (the play is occurring on a degree, however the tale is going on at some place else and time), exploring how the 2 facets either compete and supplement one another, and suggesting the social components that impression the whole procedure.

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But a much greater threat lies in the potential of video recording. Theoretically, with the invention of motion pictures at the turn of the century, the written text lost its status as the only permanent document of the theatrical process: it could be replaced by a film. However, for technical or economic reasons, very few movies have provided reliable records of performances. Even today, despite the wide availability of cheap videocassettes, with plays prerecorded or recorded from television shows, there are few serious performance libraries, and only very successful performances are made available to the public on video.

The only real subversion of tradition occurs when, as in some musicals, the appeal of glamorous mechanical devices preempts the interest in human stories. But such cases are marginal despite the growing role played by technological wonders in musicals as well as in avant-garde theatre. A more significant threat to the centrality of actors lies rather in the ever more widespread use of nontheatrical media on the stage. Films, video clips, and written texts projected on vertical surfaces can be made to contribute much to both the action and story of a play.

The central issue is the survival of the story, whatever the way of telling it. As long as there is a story, it can be told with a linear chronology or with flashbacks, continuously or with gaps, in a realistic or symbolic style, in an open or closed space, with or without explicit commentary, clearly or obscurely, economically or with redundancy, stressing verbal or physical expression, appealing to reason or emotions, and so forth. The resilience of traditional forms of theatre owes much to the flexibility of its narrative strategies, enabling it to assimilate avant-garde experiments that offer new ways of telling a story but do not question storytelling as such.

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