The aim of this essay is to analyze the theatrical character as scenic construction, starting from a passage in Tolstoy’s War and Peace where Nataša, absorbed by her love affairs, doesn’t recognize characters, into the spectacle she is watching, but sees only men and women in action. The assumption that the theatrical character has his own identity into the literary dimension of the written page is, into the essay, reversed. The matter is how and through linguistic elements, what is presented to the audience by an actor can be recognized as a character. A first reference is to the cycle of frescos, because of the presence of visual indicators whose function is to identify the character on a visual level, a function that we can find in theatre too. Into this linguistic mechanism some signs assume semantic relevance, while others are obscured. We can speak, so, of a kind of ‘selective glance’ that acts on the image of the character/actor, distinguishing between what’s of one and what’s of the other. An extreme study case is the actor’s face, one of the most relevant elements of acting in our theatre. Save when an actor uses a very heavy make-up, as Laurence Olivier, normally his face is shared between different characters and she is going to not belong to anyone, losing part of her pertinence in the process of identification of the character. The visual indicator’s play who appeals to the spectator’s ‘selective glance’, presents different cases. We can have very strong indicators, as in the Commedia dell’Arte, or others which have a more complex and complicated relation between ‘to see’ and ‘not to see the character into the actor, as in Ernesto Rossi and Eleonora Duses, when they, both quite old, play respectively Romeo, in the Shakespeare’s tragedy, and Ellida, in Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea.
Lorenzo Mango è Professore di Storia del teatro moderno e contemporaneo all’Università di Napoli “L’Orientale”. Ha scritto La scena della perdita. Il teatro tra avanguardia e postavanguardia, Roma, Kappa, 1987; Teatro di poesia. Saggio su Federico Tiezzi, Roma, Bulzoni, 1994; Alla scoperta di nuovi sensi. Il Tattilismo futurista, Napoli, La città del sole, 2001; La scrittura scenica. Un codice e le sue pratiche nel teatro del Novecento, Roma, Bulzoni, 2003; Il principe costante di Calderón de la Barca/Słowacki per Jerzy Grotowski, Pisa, ETS, 2008; L'officina teorica di Edward Gordon Craig, Corazzano, Titivillus, 2014. firstname.lastname@example.org