Review: Pavis, Patrice, The Routledge dictionary of performance and contemporary theatre

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Book Review

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Pavis (emer., Univ. of Kent, UK) is a semiologist and expert in interculturalism of the theater, and also the author of the many-times revised and translated Dictionnaire du théâtre (1980). This English translation of a separate 2014 work published in French identifies 220 concepts that have entered the critical discourse in the past 30 years, and—drawing heavily on media theory, anthropology, aesthetics, and the philosophy of art—presents Pavis's synthesis and reflections on each. The author describes his work as "not helping anyone to find their way out of the labyrinth (heaven forbid!) but to use the labyrinth of alphabetical order to jump from one problem to another," and further, to present "a manual that will lead us to others, without any manipulation, showing us the way problems overlap and solutions are to be found in shared action." Entries such as Theatre anthropology or Mediality and Intermediality identify key theorists and connect them to actual or proposed theatrical experiments. Essays on zapping (changing TV channels via remote), walking, or the concept of skin, flesh, bone take deep dives into metaphors with the potential to reshape theater (if not theatergoers). Playful, intense, and deeply informed by examples drawn from recent performances, critical theory, and scholarship.