chapter  16
Death as Theater: A Dramaturgical Analysis of the American Funeral
Pages 14

Funeral directors and allied members of their team may be seen as actors whose job it is to stage a performance in such a way so that the audience to it (the bereaved family and friends) will impute competence, sincerity, dignity, respect, and concern to their actions. Given the one-shot nature of the funeral service, and the impossibility of doing it over in the event of mistakes, the funeral director must necessarily be concerned with those performative aspects of his business which will lead the audience to be impressed favorably by his effective staging of the show. As in any other performance, the concern is likely to be with whether the show comes off or falls flat, and consequently, to use Goffman's phrase, the expressions given off must be arranged in such a way so that the images and impressions formed are favorable ones.