The contemplation of a theatrical work as a type of semiotizing machine which generates a network of signification systems, implies, a priori, the task of specifying the boundaries which define the object of analysis. Hence the dichotomy of text and performance has long been recognized as uniquely inherent in the theatre genre and, therefore, a logical preoccupation of the theatre semiotician. As indicated by contemporary theoretical work (such as that of Patrice Pavis and Anne Ubersfeld), it would appear that the role of the spectator in the reception of a performance is finally coming into view as an essential aspect in the definition of the mise en scene. According to Pavis: "This notion of mise en scene operates a radical transformation, moving from the finalized exterior object to the structuring effort of the perceiving subject. It has become a structural principle of organization which generates and creates the performance from project/ propositions of the stage and responses/ choices of the audience". Essentially, without the presence of the spectator, the theatrical performance per se ceases to exist. The theatre is therefore, by nature, an extremely self-conscious art form: the actor, for example, knows that he is being spied upon by the audience; he maintains a constant awareness (either consciously or unconsciously) of the possibility that his every gesture, word and article of dress may be interpreted as an intentional sign. Veltrusky's declaration that "all that is on the stage is a sign" is indicative of this notion.

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1991

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 1991 Estreno. This article first appeared in Estreno: Cuadernos del teatro español contemporáneo 17, no. 2 (Fall 1991): 34-38.

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