Impossible Stage Directions



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Stage directions that defy singular interpretation and do not, in fact, direct staging have been underexplored by simplistic theories which describe didascalia as fundamentally instructional. This thesis aims to develop methods of defining, interpreting, and staging impossible stage directions in modern and post-modern plays. I use textual analysis in tandem with the historical context of selected plays to elucidate the purpose of the stage direction within the text. Then, I use the purpose of the stage direction within the text to discover a responsible way of presenting the playwright’s work onstage. Three case studies reconstruct an impossible stage direction from a different genre, movement, or style of theatre. The first study discusses how Anton Chekhov’s breaking string in The Cherry Orchard breaks the traditional semiotic model of interpretation by combining realism and symbolism. The second study explores affect theory, as opposed to semiotics, as a means of interpreting Antonin Artaud’s nauseating apocalypse in Spurt of Blood. Lastly, I use concepts from trauma studies to hypothetically stage Heiner Müller’s radiating breast cancer in Hamletmachine as a traumatic memory. While this study does not argue for a single theory which accounts for all didascalia, the methodologies used in each section can be applied to a myriad of impossible stage directions hiding in scripts throughout theatre history.



Stage Directions, Impossible, Theatre