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The Reality of Doing

Real Speech Acts in the Theatre
  • David Z. Saltz
Chapter

Abstract

Theatre scholar Bernard Beckerman defines theatre as a show of “illusion” that displays “people pretending to do something. Whatever they do is a representation of some other action.”1 This definition makes explicit a view that many theatre and performance theorists take for granted. In particular, the dichotomy between stage action and “real” action is integral to semiotic theories of theatre, according to which stage action stands to real action as a signifier to a signified. As theatre semiotician Keir Elam writes: “What converts objects, people and action into signs on stage … is the removal of the performance from praxis. This may seem self-evident and commonplace, but upon this simple act of severance rests the whole power of theatrical semiosis, indeed its very existence.”2

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Bernard Beckerman, Theatrical Presentation (New York: Routledge, 1990), 15.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Keir Elam, “Language in the Theater,” Sub-Stance 18/19 (1977): 144.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lee Strasberg, “The Actor and Himself,” Actors on Acting, T. Cole and H. Chinoy, eds. (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1947, 1970), 625.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962)Google Scholar
  5. John Searle, Speech Acts (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 5.
    See Umberto Eco, “Semiotics of Theatrical Performance,” TDR 21 (1977): 115Google Scholar
  7. Richard M. Gale, “The Fictive Use of Language,” Philosophy 46 (1971): 324–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  10. Monroe Beardsley, “Fiction and Representation,” Synthese 46 (1981): 295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  12. 6.
    Stanislavski, Stanislavski’s Legacy, Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood, ed. and tr. (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1968), 20.Google Scholar
  13. 7.
    David Cole, The Theatrical Event (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1975), 77–78.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Michael Issacharoff, Discourse as Performance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989), 9.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    [Euvgeny] Vakhtangov, “The School of Intimate Experience,” Actors on Acting, T. Cole and H. K. Chinoy, eds. (New York: Three Rivers, 1947, 1970), 509.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Viola Spolin, Improvisation for the Theater (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1963), 25Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Quoted in Johan Huzinga, Homo Ludens (New York: Beacon, 1955), 11.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    A number of Pinter scholars have emphasized that the interest of his plays generally lies in the moment-to-moment interplay of speech acts. See, for example, Austin Quigley, The Pinter Problem (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975)Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    Bette Bourne, Peggy Shaw, Paul Shaw, and Lois Weaver, Belle Reprieve, in Gay and Lesbian Plays Today, Terry Helbing, ed. (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993), 19.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Krasner 2000

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  • David Z. Saltz

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