Adaptation as Design: Dramatizing Damnation via Digital Transmediality

Christophe Collard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)Research

Abstract

When multi-media dramaturge-director Robert Lepage staged his La Damnation de Faust at the New York Metropolitan in 2008, it effectively concerned a production that was both old and new at the same time. After all, this adaptation of Berlioz’ 1846-opera had been updated continuously ever since its premiere in 1999 to accommodate ever more sophisticated digital technologies and keep creating “new environments to tell the same story” (Lepage qtd. in Lampert-Gréaux, 2009). Interestingly, though, the more sophisticated the scenographies became, the more Lepage’s audiences seemed to widen (Ventura, 2008). Almost as if he had made a devilish pact with technology to mesmerize a public which, if anything, increasingly seemed to accommodate the paradigm shift from representation as interpretation of a presumed ‘original’ to mimesis as a mere design principle.

Then again, the Faust-myth indeed inscribes itself in a transmedial trend that has sacrificed traditional adaptation studies’ so-called source-text ‘fidelity’ on the altar of incommensurability. Thus the kind of cognitive flexibility it commands closely resembles the role of the stage dramaturge in its reliance on constitutive processes of signification (see Radosavljevic, 2013). After all, coordinating the conceptual coherence of a theatre production in practice comes down to transposing a certain meaningful ‘content’ across the various signifying systems that constitute it. Lepage, though, amped up the analogy by transcoding both narrative and processual variations on the incommensurability-theme into a heavily digitized scenography perennially in progress.

This paper accordingly ambitions to mine the digital dramaturgy of La Damnation de Faust for the battle of perception it generates via its fiendish fusion of art and technology. Such immersive constellation arguably stimulates a reconsideration of spectatorial identity, the constitutive role of design in aesthetic signification, and the heuristic range of transmedial phenomena alike.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSouth Atlantic Modern Language Association 2016 Annual Conference
Subtitle of host publicationspecial panel curated by the Association of Adaptation Studies (convenor Thomas M. Leitch)
PublisherUniversity of North Florida (FL - US)
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2016

Keywords

  • adaptation
  • faust
  • digitalism
  • scenography
  • Transmedial storytelling
  • Robert Lepage

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