Directing Postmodern Theater

Shaping Signification in Performance
Jon Whitmore
An introduction to theatrical directing using the concepts and terminology of semiotic theory


Directing Postmodern Theater brings together critical theory and contemporary theater practice to provide valuable tools for directing in today's expansive performance world.

Postmodern theater places new and novel demands on stage directors. It is more experimental, and the boundaries of what constitutes a performance have shifted. Dialogue is no longer always the primary mode of communication, and music, sound, movement, and other visual elements are being explored as ways to make meaning onstage.

Directing Postmodern Theater identifies the key communications systems at work in the theater: linguistic, visual, aural, olfactoral, and physical. Further, it pinpoints and examines twenty semiotic sign-systems that can be manipulated by directors to bring about meaningful communications. It is also the first book to bridge the gap between theoretical discussions of semiotics and the actual practice of producing theater. For those theories to have an impact, argues Whitmore, they must be linked to the process of transforming a playscript or concept into a living performance. This book fills the gap in practical yet provocative ways, grounding theoretical discussions in examples from specific postmodern productions.

Praise / Awards

  • "An original contribution that aims to show how semiotic theory can be made useful and practical in the staging of plays."
    —James M. Symons, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • "Whitmore's project is not to throw out conventional Western methods of directorial approach, based around psychological and illusionistic consistencies, but to broaden the base to accommodate the vigorous relativistic and multidisciplinary adventures which have been created by the arrival, during the past thirty years, of a more cross-cultural perception of theatre-making."
    Essays in Theatre/Etudes Théâtrales
  • ". . . the cumulative effect of Directing Postmodern Theater is . . . an exhilarating sense of the almost unlimited possibilities theatre affords for the production of multileveled, complex, challenging, evocative and provocative performance events. . . . For Whitmore, it would seem, the playwright, and the play, may be dead. Long live the director."
    Theatrum Magazine

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 254pp.
  • 3 drawings, 13 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1994
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06557-8

Add to Cart
  • $27.95 U.S.