Semiotics and Contemporary Play Directing: The Example of Ogonna Agu’s Dawn in the Academy

Affiong Fred Effiom


The success of any theatrical performance depends largely on how the theatre director understands, experiments and explores the wide array of techniques and approaches for creating such theatrical production. This inquiry experimented on the semiotic theory, a 21st century postmodern experimental form, as an approach to creating a theatrical production. The play script Dawn in the Academy was semiotically analyzed and presented from a directorial perspective on the stage of Chinua Achebe Arts Theatre, University of Calabar, Nigeria. The inquiry emphasizes that the semiotic sign system is an indispensable tool in the dialectic interchange between the stage and the audience. The research, supported by the play project establishes that the semiotic discipline is a productive method a director could apply when faced with an interdisciplinary play script. The semiotic oriented approach of directing on the basis of this research, is therefore established as the vehicle, which the ambiguities, indissoluble structure and juxtaposed variegated happenings inherent in scripts can be transformed. Consequently some of the basic elements of the semiotic theory as highlighted in this paper, reveal the rich and vibrant content of the various facets of the semiotic production process. Contemporary play directors in their professional quest to fully interpret and project the works of playwrights to the audience, have, among others, the option of applying the semiotic theory and sign systems in their stage experimentation.



Semiotics; Sign System; Mise-en-scene; Transformability

Full Text:



Agu, O. A. (2001). Dawn in the academy. Calabar: BAAJ International Company.

Akinwale, A. (2000). Production styles on the Nigerian stage. In H. Iyorwuese (Ed.), Theatre and stage-craft in Nigeria. Abuja: Supreme black Communications.

Artaud, A. (1990). The Theatre and its Double. (C. Victor, Trans). New York: Grove Press.

Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., & Razavieh, A. (1985). Introduction to research education. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston.

Barthes, R. (1972). Literature and signification. In R. Howard (Trans.), Critical Essays. Evanston: North Western University Press.

Bogatyrev, P. (1989). Semiotics in the Folk Theatre (K. Bier, Trans.; L. Matejka & T. Irwin, Eds.). Massachusetts: Murray Press.

Brecht, B. (1979). Epic Theatre and its difficulties in John Willet’s ‘Brecht on the Theatre’. New York: Hill and Wang.

Brockett, O. (1999). History of theatre (8th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Calandra, D. (1977). A semiotic approach to expressionist performance. London: Longman.

Clarke, M. (1988). Sign Function in Performance. New York: Stein and Day, 1988.

Cole, T., & Chinoy, H. K. (1973). Directors on Directing: A source Book of the Modem Theatre. London: Peter Owen, 1973.

Danchenko, V. (1963). The three faces of the director. In C. Tobby & H. K. Chinoy (Eds.), Directors on Directing. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill.

Dean, A., & Lawrence Carra, L. (1965). Fundamentals of play directing. New York: Holt Rinehalt and Winston.

Docker, J. (1974). Postmodemism and popular culture. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Eco, U. (1977). A theory of semiotics. London: Macmillan.

Elam, K. (1980). The semiotics of drama and theatre. New York: Methuen.

Fernald, J. (1968). Sense of direction. New York: First Stein and Day Publishers.

Gross, R. (1974). Understanding play scripts: The theory and method. Ohio: Bowling Green University Press.

Grotowski, J. (1984). Towards a poor Theatre. London: Eyre Methuen.

Hawkes, T. (1977). Structuralism and semiotics. London: Methuen.

Hodge, F. (1971). Play directing: Analysis communication and style. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice – hall Incorporated.

Honzl, J. (1989). Dynamics of the sign in the Theatre (T. Titunik, Trans., L. Matejka & I. Titunik, Eds.) Massachusetts: Murray Press.

Hornby, R. (1977). Script into performance A structuralist view of play production. Texas: University Press.

McGuire, B. (1980). An introduction to theatre semiotics. New York: Routeledge.

Saussure, F. (1974). Course in general linguistics (H. Roy, Trans.; C. Bally & A. Sechehage, Eds.). London: Fontana.

Tostonogov, G. (1972). The profession of the stage director. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Waugh, P. (1982). Practicing postmodernism reading modernism. New York: Hodder and Stoughton.

Whiting, F. (1991). An introduction to the theatre. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Whitmore, J. (1994). Directing postmodern theatre. Michigan: University Press.

Wilson, E. (1991). The theatre experience. New York: McGraw Hill.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Affiong Effiom

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Share us to:   


  • How to do online submission to another Journal?
  • If you have already registered in Journal A, then how can you submit another article to Journal B? It takes two steps to make it happen:

1. Register yourself in Journal B as an Author

  • Find the journal you want to submit to in CATEGORIES, click on “VIEW JOURNAL”, “Online Submissions”, “GO TO LOGIN” and “Edit My Profile”. Check “Author” on the “Edit Profile” page, then “Save”.

2. Submission

Online Submission:

  • Go to “User Home”, and click on “Author” under the name of Journal B. You may start a New Submission by clicking on “CLICK HERE”.
  • We only use four mailboxes as follows to deal with issues about paper acceptance, payment and submission of electronic versions of our journals to databases:;;;

 Articles published in Cross-Cultural Communication are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY).


Address: 1055 Rue Lucien-L'Allier, Unit #772, Montreal, QC H3G 3C4, Canada.
Telephone: 1-514-558 6138 
Website: Http://; Http://;

Copyright © Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture