In Search of the Dramatic Composition: A Contemporary Circus Performance as a Structure of Signs

Veronika Stefanova


In my search for a meaningful form of contemporary circus analysis, I am proposing a basic framework derived primarily from Czech theatre theory based on pre-semiotic and semiotic studies. I employ theories that make use of the theatre sign system and theories which perceive the theatrical—and, by extension, contemporary circus—production as a structure comprised of individual components. In order to test the validity of this theatre-based approach, I analyze a brief dramatic situation from La Putyka (2009), the first major performance by the Czech contemporary circus company Cirk La Putyka. I conclude that La Putyka may be meaningfully subject to a theatre-based semiotic analysis specifically because performers—by virtue of becoming characters and interacting with the audience—are transformed into dramatis personae. Finally, I propose that the theories discussed here are suitable for analyzing contemporary circus performances conceived and developed by a director, an approach likewise generally utilized in the world of theatre.

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