2007 -- mise-en-scene main


mise-en-scene pages

film mise-en-scene




... When an actor stands in the correct position (usually with regard to lighting) she/he is said to have Hit the Mark.

* the process of arranging actors and scenery on a stage for a theatrical production

*stage setting

*the physical setting of an action



mise en scène: French for 'the staging'; literally 'putting into the scene'

The performance : is ‘all that is made visible or audible on stage’ but is not perceived as a system of meaning or a system of signifying stage systems. It is the concrete object

The mise en scène : is an abstract theoretical concept of the performance, a totality, (an undifferentiated whole) perceived as a system or ensemble of signs working together to produce meaning; an organized ensemble of signs.

The metatext : or performance text : is an unwritten text comprising the various choices of a mise en scène that the director has consciously or unconsciously made during the rehearsal process, choices that are apprarent in the final product (Pavis 2003, 8)

The performance : is the whole material thing that you take in visually and audibly; the mise en scène is its abstract substance, the organizing principles and system of options

French performance theorist Patrice Pavis describes mise en scène as:

1. – ‘reading actualized’ (31)

2.- ‘speaks by showing, not by speaking’ (31)

3 – ‘tries to provide the dramatic text with a situation that will give meaning to the statements (énoncés ) of the text.’ (30)

4.- ‘the bringing together or confrontation, in a given time and space, of different signifying systems, for an audience.’ (1992:24)

Pavis says that a crucial issue for analysis of performance that uses texts, is how a text is received and interpreted by the spectator.

In Analysing Performance (2003) Pavis returns to the question of the text and its staging in the light of historical shifts that have, he says, relegated the text to the status of a ‘cumbersome accessory’ to the overall performance event.

The question is what meanings a particular stage practice enables, opens up or empties out.

The normative view of the text and performance relationship

The philologist view

Philology: literary or classical scholarship that focuses on language

The dramatic text is paramount and the stage is its illustration

The mise en scene is seen as issuing directly from the text: after reading a text, elements are extracted from it and put on stage

The performance appeals to the authority of the text for its interpretation and its existence

The text is a reference for the stage

The mise en scene should not be arbitrary but should serve the text and justify itself as a correct reading of the dramatic text.

Text and performance bound together, conceived in relation to each other

The radical stage-centred vision of mise en scene

Hans Thies Lehmann: ‘the mise en scene is an artistic practice that is strictly unforeseeable from the perspective of the text’

Denies any causal connection between text and stage

Gives mise en scene the power to decide on aesthetic choices

Examples: Elizabeth le Compte and the Wooster Group, Robert Wilson, Heiner Muller who prepare text, music, scenography, actor’s performances in an autonomous way.

Eg Muller’s 1995 prologue for Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Berliner Ensemble

The text no longer has an anterior or authoritative status

The text neither centralises or organises the non verbal elements


Pavis proposes a more moderate position: the text provides practitioners with suggestions for experimental or progressive placement of enunciatory situations ­– with a choice of “given circumstances”

Today, mise en scene is no longer the passage of a text to the stage

It can be understood as an installation, a bringing together of diverse stage practices (lighting, plastic arts, improvisation) without the possibility of a hierarchy between them.

Status of the staged text

Its existence independent of the mise en scene

Published independently Eg. The classical or modern play text

Produced in the course of rehearsals

Introduced at the end of rehearsals eg. Wilson’s approach to Heiner Muller’s Hamletmachine

Typologies of mise en scene

Naturalist – based on mimesis of the real eg. Ibsen

Realist – mimesis is selective, critical, inclusive, systematic eg. Brecht

Symbolist – an idealised essence of the real world eg. Meyerhold

Expressionist – particular aspects and features of reality are emphasized to express the personal attitude of the director

Epic – narrates by means of actor, scenography and plot; actor-story tellers eg. Spalding Gray

Theatricalised – does not imitate the real, an acceptance of theatre as fiction and convention

Mise en scene of classic texts

Archeological reconstruction – as the text was first performed eg. Globe Theatre, London


Historicization – adaptations to make the text ‘relevant’ to the social conditions of the present

Recuperation – as raw material for rewriting

Mise en scene of possible meanings – opens the text to a plurality of meanings

Autotextual – does not go outside the boundaries of the stage and make a coherent scenic universe

Ideotextual – alludes to social reality outside the stage

Intertextual – alludes to other performances of the classical text

Metaphoric – uses stage as a metaphor of the dramatic text that it comments on, remains bound by and compliant with the text

Scenographic – scenic writing as separate from text

Eventlike – making use of the text to stage an event eg a 22 hour reading of Homer’s The Iliad

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Director's Eye 2005 textbook