performance text

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performance text > performance tekst [English/Dutch]

Everything that happens during a performance.

The performance text not only entails the words spoken during a performance, but everything that inscribes meaning in a performance. Everything that happens on stage that gives the performance meaning can be seen as a part of the performance text. The performance text consists of a network of symbols, signs, actions, and expressive meaning that come together to create something new on stage.

 The word text is derived from the word ‘texere,’ which means ‘to weave’ (etymologiebank). In this sense, you can understand the performance text as something that consists of all the signs used on stage woven together to create meaning. Words can be part of this, but do not constitute the entirety of it..

A text and a performance are both systems of rules that are culturally embedded, and can be read differently by people from different cultures. They both consist of symbols that need to be interpreted by the receiver. If the receiver interprets these symbols in a different way than the performer or maker intended, there can be a problem in the inscription of meaning. An example is showing your hand, which can mean something different in different cultures: this is how Dutch people say ‘hello,” while it symbolizes a curse word to Nigerians. To grasp the full meaning of a text (written text, not the performance text), it may be necessary to surround it by other actions and symbols; this may include costumes, light design, and props.

The difference between performance and performance text is made in the inscription of meaning. The performance assumes the audience inscribes meaning, while the makers inscribe meaning to different symbols in the performance text that can be interpreted by the audience.

It does not have to be a problem that a performance text can evoke contradictory meanings: this can be what the performer intended. This is mostly so in post-dramatic performances where the maker doesn’t give a clear meaning to the symbols and leaves it up to the spectators to interpret it in their own way (Lehmann 25-26).  


Lehmann, Hans-Thies. Postdramatic Theatre. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006.

Van der Sijs, Nicoline (red.). Etymologiebank. Red. Nicoline van der Sijs. 2010. 02-02-2014. <>



Author and translator: Renee Mendel