Playwright Versus Director: Authorial Intentions and Performance Interpretations

Playwright Versus Director: Authorial Intentions and Performance Interpretations

Playwright Versus Director: Authorial Intentions and Performance Interpretations

Playwright Versus Director: Authorial Intentions and Performance Interpretations

Synopsis

Giving equal space to the sanctity of script and the artistic freedom of directors, this book addresses the difficulties encountered by playwrights and directors as they bring a script to the stage. Inspired directors can help a writer of genius turn his play into exciting theatre, but playwrights find that giving directors leeway to interpret and modify "text" can result in directors' overriding authorial intentions. This book presents the best that has been written by literary theorists on the current definitions of "text" and attempts to depart from quick rule-of-thumb assessments of the problem.

Excerpt

Polemic in the realm of drama is striking at underlying issues of authorial intention and performance interpretation. the theatre world is reassessing its position on production hierarchy. the longevity of the issue of what constitutes a play's text, who determines its meaning, and who controls its transfer to the stage equals its magnitude. Aristotle could not have approached more studiously his era's enigma about what constitutes a human being--its chemical make-up or its functional properties. a cursory look in this preface at the make-up and function of a script may ready the reader of the text for theoretical distinctions between play and performance.

In the first half of our century, actor-director Antonin Artaud, remembered for his blasts at the "tyranny" of playwrights, stated paradoxically, "The author must discover and assume what belongs to the mise en scène [the placing on stage] as well as what belongs to the author, and become a director himself in a way that will put a stop to the absurd duality existing between director and author" (112). the polemic over what is text and who interprets it began even earlier in a discipline separate from drama--literary criticism--where its theorists produced reams of discourse for libraries and universities on the essence of text and the expanding potential for interpreting it.

By the 1960s a conservative literary philosopher, E. D. Hirsch, placed any text's meaning and intent solely with its author: "the notion of a sense beyond the author's is illegitimate"; it would be possible only if one were to grant the conception of a "sensus plenior," a divine sense beyond the human author's (126). the notion . . .

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