Directing scenes and senses

The thinking of Regie

This book is dedicated to a conceptual exploration of the thinking of Regie: of how to think about theatre direction, and how Regietheater thinks itself. The focus is on what directing does, and what directing can do, tapping into and realising the potential of what theatre does and may do. Part I of the book outlines the social, ideological, political, cultural and aesthetic contexts of Regie, and some of its core intellectual and conceptual roots, by circumventing some standard reference points. Philosophical ideas and concepts of situating Regie within the Rancièrian 'aesthetic regime of art' and its specific 'partition of the sensible' are explained. The book specifically links Regie to Georg Hegel's influential thought, maintaining that Regie expresses a cultural dynamic of making sense and making sensible. The book presents the respective positions of Friedrich Schiller and Leopold Jessner, symptomatically capturing central trajectories of thinking the conceptual space of Regie, both mobilising the speculative dynamics of theatral thinking. Part II of the book explores the contested notion of 'the truth of the text', and the dialectic sublation of the play-text in play-performance. It looks at the mediation which the double-edged act of thea affords, with its emphasis on both performing and spectating, marked by the Žižekian notion of the 'parallax perspective'. The overarching political potential inherent in Regie and the very formal structure of theatre offer a playfully excessive resistance to the dominant logic of economy, efficiency, sustainability and austerity which defines present-day global neoliberal semiocapitalism.

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‘Among the many merits of Peter Boenisch's Directing Scenes and Senses: The Thinking of Regie is that it throws into relief these longstanding disagreements about the liberties a director should take with a play text. While building a case for why such debates are needed, Boenisch also suggests they tend to be built on a misapprehension, one exemplified by the English understanding of the German word Regietheater. Often translated as 'director's theatre', Boenisch reminds readers that Regietheater actually means something more like 'directing theatre' (p. 7). He flags this mistranslation to insist that instead of pitting the 'vision' of directors against the 'intentions' of playwrights, Regie actually indicates an aesthetic practice that mediates text and performance to create something that transcends both (p. 73). Directing Scenes and Senses is far from a dispassionate defence of Regietheater, but Boenisch's partiality makes it a compelling contribution...'
Michael Shane Boyle, Queen Mary University of London
Contemporary Theatre Review
May 2016

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