Communication is the basis of the theater as a phenomenon. The basic communication occurs between the actor (as sender) and the audience (as receiver). That is why the theater is understood, above all, as a semiotic phenomenon. This communication is conducted through signs: the signs sent to the public by the actors, signs sent by the director, by the author of the play, by the scenery artist, and so on. An infinite production of meanings. Anyhow, a general and most significant role in this process is assigned to the actor, to his body, to his movements and his speech. Those movements and words are signs, and the actor himself is a sign. All these things are research subjects of the semiotics of theater, as a sub-discipline of the semiotics as a general science of signs.
The actor’s body is a sign – with this expression, as a maxim, operates the semiotics of theater. The body is a sign (or a macro-sign), but it is also a “bundle” of signs, or – syntagma. Above all – a kinesic syntagma.
All the movements of the actor (the movements of the body and face) are signs, namely – kinesic signs. The movements of the face (mimics) are mimic signs; the movements of the body without a change in location are gestual signs, while the movements through space are proxemic signs.
If we reinterpret Tadeush Kowzan, we could say that the signs assigned to the actor (whish are a part of the actor as a theater’s macro-sign) are the following: movement, gesture, mimics, words, sounds and (if we add a new category) posture or appearance, as one unavoidable actor’s sign. All these signs (which can be supplemented with new categories and subcategories, as Patrice Pavis also points) are given here only hypothetically, as an example for the structure of the macro-sign called as the actor.
What concerns the signs related to the speech, they are divided as linguistic and paralinguistic. The linguistic signs are related with the letter (with the words), or more accurate – to the meaning of the word, and the paralinguistic signs are related to the sounds and intonation, tonality of those, namely with the connotation that certain sounds and voices carry within the actors act. Pointing at these divisions is important and necessary within our research here, because in our case of Prličko’s act the mimic and gestual signs, and their combinations with the paralinguistic signs.
It’s interesting that all of those types of signs (gestual, mimic, proxemic and paralinguistic), in opposite of the linguistic ones don’t have strictly determined meaning. The mimic signs have a meaning if they fit to the schemes of the “recognizable” or “known” face expressions that show/represent certain conditions: joy, grieve, anger, astonishment, wondering, etc. The paralinguistic signs fit into a similar scheme, but on the sound and tonality level; but yet, about them also can not be said that they have strictly determined meaning. What concerns the gestual signs, we can say that they practically have no meaning outside the context they are used in. In general, all those signs (the linguistic ones excluded) above all depend on the context they are used in. We are going to research the Prličko’s manner of sign use, the signs that are of his own “personal code”, or more specific, how he manages to draw the similar line in all of his acting performances and to thread it with the other signs in a certain given context.
We could say that theater semiotics concentrates its interests at two things: on the actor phenomenon and on the theatrical code phenomenon (although they are connected indissoluble and can’t be anticipated apart from each other). In this essay, our primary goal is to implement the methods of semiotics on theater, i.e. starting from the semiotics methods and claims, to determine two things: the phenomenon of the actor (in this case Petre Prličko) and the code that is specific for Prličko as actor (that is, his actor’s code).
When we look back at the roles of Petre Prličko, we can notice a specific way of interpreting those roles. This specific approach isn’t a result only of one specific “actors school” of the traveling actor’s troops, but it is also a result of particular individual characteristics of Petre Prličko – his way of interpreting roles above all set on gestures and mimics. In all of his roles (in theater, film and television), Prličko gives a special accent to the gesture in his acting – above the speech. His ability of pushing aside the speech and accenting the expression of the gesture – is even something more: it is a transformation of speech into gesture.
In a specific way, Prličko is transforming replicas in movements, gestures and mimics. Never telling his whole replica, or just murmuring it, with his mimics and movements he gives to it much greater strength and a fullness to the meaning, than that she would have had if he’d just say it. Sometimes is enough just to wink, or to wave with his hand, and the speech happened. And he didn’t have to say a word.
The most important thing in our analysis of Petre Prličko’s acting performance is to illuminate and deeply analyze that particular kind of “speech”: a speech of movements and gestures, i.e., to set the foundations of the “speech without speaking”, or the gestual and mimic speech. This “speech” isn’t accidental and uncontrolled phenomenon in Prličko’s acting performance. In contrary: it is a certain and determined system as a base of his whole act as an actor, system that formed himself on stage, and in the eyes of the audience. That is, in fact, the main reason why this essay is concentrated on the gestual and mimic code of Prličko’s acting performance: because that’s the system based on the “speech” evolved into a code, into a rule that bears a whole system. That code is Prličko’s personal stamp. He is known by that, and that is his distinctiveness. Most probably that is what he’ll be remembered by.
In our research we are going to pay attention primarily to Prličko’s comic roles (for instance: Jerotie Pantic in Dubious Person, Miloe in Authority, Agaton in Mourning Family, Zhivota in D-r, all by Branislav Nushic, and Argan inConceitedly Ill, and Orgon in Tartuffe, both by Molliere). Having in mind the fact that the gesture and the mimics are fully coming true in comedy, and namely, they represent the essence of the comedy as a genre. We could mention here the examples of Charlie Chaplin and Marcel Marceaux and the importance of the gesture and mimics (in this case – pantomime) for illumination of the comical. Another significant example for the importance of gesture and mimics in expression of the comical (where it even evolves into a higher form of expression and transposes itself into a “method”, not into a “ultimate purpose”) – is the phenomenon of Monty Python and the whole system developed by the actors there on behalf of the gestures and mimics. They are the ultimate example how much one can reach a perfection in the use of gestual and mimic code (as well as the proxemic code – especially in the episodes like The Ministry of Silly Walk). Exactly that kind of a system, the existence of the certain determined code, is the objective of this particular research.
The objectives of our research are the following:
1. To determine the specific actor’s code of Petre Prličko, i.e. his specific use of the gestual and mimic code in his acting performance. In other words, what characterizes the actor is his actor’s code, namely “the code”, i.e. “the system” that he applies in his acting performance. The goal of our investigation is to show that there is a specific actor’s code that Prličko uses in his acting performance, mainly gestual and mimic coded in its bases.
2. The second point of our research is to illuminate the fact that Prličko in his acting, i.e., in his actor’s code also implies something called as a “personal code” of the actor (the elements of his own personality – habits, mimics, sayings etc.) as a constitutive part of every actor’s performance.
In other words, we could say that when it’s a matter of the actor’s performance, namely – of performing a role on a particular character or setting up a role, we always have present three different codes:
1. The character’s code in a play,
2. The personal actor’s code, and
3. The actor’s code, or the code that is obtained as a final product, as “compilation” or “junction” of character’s code and personal actor’s code.
That can be presented in this way:
What’s important to be mentioned is that the actor’s code isn’t only that individual/singular code, which emerges with a simple “junction” of the personal actor’s code and the certain character’s code… Actor’s code is also the code that is built/created/guild through implementing the personal code to the character’s code in general, namely through the implementation of more than one character code (of as many as the certain play has need of). So we speak of a higher level code, namely a certain system.