Theatricality and the Factors That are Used by it

The article ‘Theatricality: The Specificity of Theatrical Language’ written in the year 2002 by Josette Feral explores the idea of Theatricality through the analysis of various factors like, The Historical Context, Theatricality as the property of the Quotidian, The Theater as Pre-Aesthetic, Stage-related Theatricality and The Framework and the Forbidden. Feral has very categorically tried to contextualize the notion of theatricality from the above mentioned frameworks from the text itself. More specifically the frame of the observer and the observed in a choreographed space or just the constituted space as theater by spectator’s gaze is used to reach the notion of Theatricality.

Feral also accepts the difficulty to define the specificity of theater because of the newly acquired form of the spectacular and the theatrical. The writer has drawn various clearly drawn questions that would be the basis of the article. In the section ‘The Historical Context’ Feral has referred to Barthes’ idea upon the theorization of theater which itself is the sign of an era fascinated by theory. This reference suggests the presence of abstract concepts as semiotization, ostension, fragment, displacement in theater. Furthermore he has drawn few possible scenarios that to some extent lets us closely examine the nature of theatricality as a property of the Quotidian. Through these possible scenarios from the theatrical domain the author tries to decipher the possible realms that act as the elements of theatrical language. I think The Historical Context section clearly helps us to go through the earlier works (and more specifically the twentieth century works like “teatralnost” and Barthes’ ideas upon seeing theatricality through different theories and theorizing itself) and their significance in redefining theatricality. It really is interesting to go through the different scenarios that have been very comprehensively composed by the author. Through the first scenario we are made familiar with the set and space- without the presence of actor- and how their becoming fundamental to theatricality because of spectacular nature of theatricality. It becomes fundamental for the theatricality to create the spatial realization of the text. For me it is quite good to go through the paper in such a step by step process that includes the specificity of the work. In the second scenario we come to observe the theatrical nature of the argument that has taken place on the subway between two opposing figures. Feral says that one may not accept the presence of theatricality in the drawn situation because of these reasons;
1. The argument taking place didn’t appear staged
2. Nor had the non-participant been formally invited to watch,
3. The exchange did not appear to be a fictional situation, for the parties seemed genuinely involved in quarrel. Here we can see Boal’s interpretation of the situation as an “invisible theatrical production” where spectator’s participation was involuntary and theatricality seems to stem from the spectator’s awareness of a theatrical intention addressed to him. It is quite an interesting way to redefine the space and the role of spectator as an integral part to constitute the presence of theatricality.

From that point onward he draws the third scenario in which he analyses the exercise of watching that reassigns gestures to theatrical space. He draws an important conclusion that theatricality has little to do with the nature of the invested object- the actor, space, object, or event- nor the result of pretense, illusion, make-believe, or fiction. Here he is sidelining these prerequisite conditions that may make it vague to identify the presence of theatricality in everyday occurrences. Through these observations the article proceeds with an extended development in the primary concern that theatricality seems to be a process that has to do with a “gaze” that creates a distinct, virtual space belonging to the other, from which fiction can emerge. This scenario also concludes that theatricality has occurred under two conditions: first through a performer’s recollection of the quotidian space that he occupies; second through a spectator’s gaze framing a quotidian space that he does not occupy which results into the “outside” and “inside” of theatrical space. The references of The discussions by Winnicott, the threshold (limen) discussed by Turner, or Goffman’s “framing” in the ending section of the third scenario establish the conclusions that are a new development to the step by step analyses of the specificity of theatrical languages.

The section What Permits the Theatrical? The Theater as Pre-Aesthetic opens some very new approaches. Here Kantian idea is used which says that we are confronted with the possibility of attributing a transcendent nature to theatricality, and of thus defining stage-related theatricality as only one expression of  transcendent phenomenon. I think this way of framing theatricality in a transcendental structure helps us to see theatricality as an essence of theater. This approach also poses a question upon itself that the theatricality of the stage could not exist were the nature of theatricality not transcendent. The idea drawn in the earlier section about the theatricality of stage is discussed in the stage-related Theatricality section. Here Evreinof’s idea is derived which claims Theatricality as a property that springs from the actor and renders his surroundings theatrical, thus according to him these two poles (self, reality) are the fundamental points of focus for all reflections on theatricality: its point of emergence (the acting self), and its point of arrival (reality). We see the historical, sociological and aesthetic variations encompass the totality of theatrical practices. It becomes quite interesting here to see how the development in the argument over theatricality turns out to be centred upon the actor, acting and the fiction vs reality phase. Actors presence alone is enough to assure that theatricality will be preserved and that the theatrical act will take place- proof that the actor is one of the indispensable elements in the production of stage-related theatricality. Peter Brook extends this idea by saying that the actor is simultaneously the producer of theatricality and the channel through which it passes. It is the actor himself/herself that manifests the act of controlling and being controlled in the defined space of scenic stage diagram. The body of the actor is the privileged locus of the self’s confrontation with alterity. In this section I associate this focus on the body with the everyday engagements that people do while doing their activities to sustain the existence in the time space coordination. This act also emanates knowledge and awareness about the surrounding as the actor is aware of the space that is staged for his performance. From this development we see how body itself brings theatricality to stage. The body itself becomes the carrier of the actor and the performances that he/she does. Thus the section concludes that the body of the actor is without doubt one of the most important elements of stage-related theatricality In the next section Acting which is defined as second fundamental notion of stage-related theatricality, is the result of a performer’s decision to consciously occupy the here-and-now of a space different from the quotidian, to become involved in activity outside of a daily life. Here Feral is drawing in the idea of “theatrical framework” by Irwing Goffman which has the advantage of stressing the dynamic aspect of the term.

This idea leads us to conclude that Theatricality emerges from the dynamic process where the actor and the spectator both fit in the domain as exchanging agencies. Mayerhold’s and Stanislavski’s concepts of theatricality is also drawn into the discussion. Their varying approaches upon theatricality help in redefining the modern day response to the question of whether theatricality can be defined according to any specific relationship between the stage and the reality that appears clear. A very vital question is put by Evreinov “Does not the essence of theater consist, above all, in the capacity to violate norms established by nature, the state, and society?” Feral says that this possibility of violation guarantees the freedom of the actor and the strength of free will of all contributors. This concludes as although theatricality may yet be present in the event, theater as such has disappeared. In the concluding part I do agree with the Feral’s idea where he says that Theatricality produces spectacular events for the spectator; it establishes a relationship that differs from the quotidian. It is an act of representation, the construction of fiction. It certainly lets itself be defined as proved with the ever changing realm of society and the need to re-establish itself in a newer framework.



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