A quick post about theatre spaces for possible use in the classroom by Drama/Theatre teachers.
Proscenium Arch: The most common stage in purpose-built theatres, where the audience is placed on one side of the stage. Performers must be largely aware of facing the audience most of the time, who themselves act as Peeping Tom’s peering through the (invisible) Fourth Wall. Advantages include the opportunity to hide performers in the wings and sets in the fly tower and wings. Restrictions include sight-line issues with set pieces and a lack of intimacy between actor and audience. Anyone who has sat 2,000 seats away from the stage in the balcony of a large theatre, or at the side of the stalls or dress circle trying to see part of a stage set around a solid wall, will tell you all about the problems of a proscenium arch stage!
Traverse: Uncommon form of staging where, similar to that of a fashion parade, the audience sits on two sides of a long rectangular stage, facing each other. Traverse staging allows for even the worst seats in the house to be relatively close to the stage, but often there is an absence of wings for the performers. Depending whether the seating is raked or not, sometimes props need to be small(ish) and set pieces are often hung from above instead of being placed on the stage. Most of the audience is either going to see actor profiles or backs much of the time.
Thrust: The three-sided stage was the preferred option for William Shakespeare. With the audience sitting around threes ides of the acting space, this square or circular space is the inverse of proscenium arch staging. Instead of the acting space being set in, rather it juts out, or ‘thrusts’ itself into the audience area. Considerable advantages occur with the ability to place a large audience around the performance space and yet still feel a certain intimacy. Disadvantages include actors facing their backs to large sections of the audience, the question of whether to block action deep in the space or at its leading edge, and an inability to have any sense of set due to audience sight lines.
Arena/In The Round: Whether square or circular, this is the four-sided stage with the audience placed all around the performance space. This type of staging has similar, but enhanced features of the thrust stage. Large audiences can be seated close to the action in theatre-in-the-round, but blocking and sight line issues abound, as do set design considerations. Dressing rooms are often built under a raised performance space or elsewhere, with performers often moving through the audienace area in order to get to them.
What are the advantages and challenges of each space ?
Hi I really need disadvantages for a thrust stage. I can’t think of any please help!!!
This info is in the article, EL.
There aren’t any. The biggest problems with this stage layout is that teachers & students & professional performers don’t know and have little skill and knowledge in how to make it work best. Audience on three sides:
A. Immediately awakens performers to the inclusion of spectators/audience in every single scene of any play being performed.
B. Is NOT the same as “Audience Participation,” like we see in Pantomimes, today.
C. Obliges performers to see, speak to, and hear every single spectator/audience member in every moment of any play being performed.
D. Can be harmed and undermined by directional stage lighting, which tends to blind perfomers to audiences, even when they’re on three sides.
E. Was the format Shakespeare chose for performing his plays, so arguably the best model for performing any play today, not just Shakespeare.
F. OBLIGES movement in performers. It thus heightens imaginative performances.
We all know the poor student performer who “can’t think of any movement to do in this speech, Miss… can you help please?” Audiences ONLY to the FRONT limits these student’s ability for movement because, quite simply, this audience arrangement doesn’t REQUIRE or OBLIGE any movement from performers! In contrast, audience on three sides has the opposite impact: it OBLIGES performers to MOVE.
Performers turning to face each side of the audience during the delivery of Shakespeare’s KEY lines demonstrates just how significant this arrangement can be:
“To be” (to one side)
“Or not to be” (to the other side)
“That is the question” (to the front).
The best version is the mysterious
“Romeo” (to one side)
“Romeo” (to the other side)
“Wherefore art thou Romeo?!” (to the front)
…because performing these lines like this immediately reveals Juliet means “WHY are you called Romeo?” not “WHERE are you Romeo?”
Performing these three lines only to the front misleads students into believing Juliet is SEARCHING for Romeo, because the performer gazes out in only one direction.
Audience on three sides of performers has always been the most common form of professional theatres “over the last 400 years” according to Iain Mackintosh, Architecture, Actor and Audience (Routledge 1993, 25) categorically identifies a “continuity of character” in England’s (or the UK’s) most inspiring professional theatres “over the past 400 years.” These characteristics include being:
1. Small scale.
3. With “audience on three sides of the main acting area, with the greater proportion to the front.”
Be VERY CLEAR in your teaching: these characterise every single one of England’s most inspiring theatres over the last 400 to 450 years.
Mackintosh and I disagree on what is CORE to these performance spaces. My own publications emphasise the significance of “on three sides.” Mackintosh agrees this is significant, but not CORE. He prefers to emphasise the “small scale” factor. The so-called “Thrust Stage” is a term dating from c,1890 (not earlier – see Oxford English Dictionary), when Parliament ORDERED the closure of all theatres where performers & audience shared the same space. New laws passed from 1876 -1892 directed Theatre Managers and owners to build a masonry wall, 3ft deep (stretching from basement through the roof line), categorically banning audiences from being anywhere near the stage floor. “Fire protection” was the specious grounds of ).
Hi, are there any more advantages of a thrust stage? I need two for my homework.
Ella, to be truthful, there’s probably more disadvantages to performing on a thrust stage, than advantages. Intimate actor-audience relationship, more audience numbers closer to the stage than in a proscenium arch arrangement, perhaps no need to mic actors due to the close proximity of the audience, maybe no need for large sets because you cannot have them due to audience sight lines coming from three sides of the acting space….
Is Justin Cash’s reply an error? He wrote (September 12, 2018 at 12:59 pm), “…there’s probably more disadvantages to performing on a thrust stage, than advantages,” yet what he lists as “disadvantages” categorically HELP improve performances. (1) “Intimate actor-audience relationship” (2) m”ore audience numbers closer to the stage” (3) “no need to mic actors” (4) “…no need for large sets”. Isn’t that how Shakespeare chose to stage plays? If they’re an advantage to Shakespeare, they’re also an advantage to performing ANY play. Iain Mackintosh, Architecture, Actor and Audience (Routledge 1993, 25) specifically identifies a “continuity of character” in England’s most inspiring professional theatres “over the last 400 – 450 years” as (a) small-scale (b) uncomfortable (c) audience on three sides of the main acting area, with the greater proportion to the front.” Anyone who mistakenly believes audience only to the front is an “advantage” sadly prioritises performers as “Speakers” or “Orators” lit by directional lighting, which blinds performers to audiences. In effect, this arrangement cuts out the audience. Anyone seeking to do this (on the specious grounds of so-called “Naturalism” or “Fire protection”) reduces the significance of audiences. No Audiences = no Performance = no Professional Theatre. Wake up and smell the audience as the most significant people in any performance. It’s the only way to teach theatre or performance or acting…. Audiences ALWAYS increase when they’re embracing performers (in promenade, on three sides, in-the-round) because they feel valued.
Do you go to high school?
I’m not Ella but that is pretty creepy.
Hello, I’m Angelina Do you mind helping me out on 5 advantages on an arena, stage thank you for your time have a great day!
Angelina, not sure I can think of 5 advantages of arena staging, but I have listed the main advantage in a comment below.
Hi I am doing a project for school and I need to know a disadvantage and advantage of an arena stage many thx!!
Ellie, the main advantage of the arena stage is an intimate actor-audience relationship. Because the audience is seated on four sides of the acting space, hundreds of people can be placed in close proximity to the performers. The main disadvantages of arena staging are no wings to hide performers and scenery (though if the stage is artificially raised, performers can be hidden beneath), sight line issues with the performers’ backs to most of the audience at any one time, and the inability to have large set pieces or scenery on the acting space because it will block the view of some of those in the audience. Set pieces can, however, be flown from above if the space allows it, but of course in arena staging a traditional fly tower to hide scenery may not exist. Hope this helps! – Justin
What’s wrong with “performers backs to the audience”? This falsely presumes audiences only to the front as the principal form of theatre space. Justin Cash, why would anyone presume this, when we know Shakespeare performed with the audience on three sides? If Shakespeare is NOT your model, it’s difficult to see how you value professional theatre or play performances. You seem more interested in performers and “set pieces” of scenery than in audiences. Wanamaker’s New Globe Theatre (opened 1997) is the world’s most popular venue – tickets sell out 6 months in advance both in the new indoor space and in the open air. Audiences are constantly SHOCKED by its performances, surprised at their ACTIVE nature. “Audience participation” (in the proscenium arch traditional format) rarely happens because it’s NEVER required: audiences are included in the performance by virtue of surrounding the main acting area on three sides. If we want our performances to be popular, and successful, we should follow Iain Mackintosh’s “continuity of character” evidence in England’s most inspiring professional theatres “over the last 400-450 years”: (1) Small scale (2) Uncomfortable (3) Audience on three sides of the main acting area, with the greater proportion to the front.” (Architecture, Actor & Audience Routledge 1993, 25)
What is a promenade theater
A-aron, check this article
Promenade Theatre happens when audiences STAND throughout the play performance. English Director Max Stafford-Clark restored promenade performance of plays in the 1980s at the Royal Court Theatre in London with “Road,” a fabulous striking play revealing the harms unemployment brings to whole communities. Britain’s National Theatre staged “The Mysteries” (Tony Harrison) its most successful sell-out performances (before War Horse Dir. Marianne Elliot & Tom Morris). Photographs of The Mysteries appear on the cover of the book by J. R Mulryne & Margaret Shewring “Cottesloe at the National, The: Infinite Riches in a Little Room” 1999 (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cottesloe-National-Infinite-Riches-Little/dp/1900065010 ) and these promenade performances were broadcast by UK Channel 4 and can still be seen on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmcG6NDY4h0&ab_channel=StevenSonsino
The proscenium arch stage has stood the test of time, still being the most common performance space for theatres across the world. The main advantage is that the performers and set pieces only have to face one direction. As long as this is maintained properly, everyone in the audience can see the facing side of actors, props and sets. And those sets can be as tall and wide as the opening of the proscenium (though time and time again proscenium arch theatres are built with sight line issues because the audience seats fan out too wide for the arch opening and/or theatre companies build or position set pieces that cannot be seen by some seats of the house). Add to this the ability to hide performers in wings off stage behind a solid wall, lighting instruments behind hung curtains, and some set pieces in fly towers above the stage, and you have all you need for the illusion of theatre to be created. One of the reasons the thrust stage was so popular in Elizabethan times is because it thrust out into the audience space, effectively being surrounded by spectators on three sides – the inverse of the proscenium arch stage. Hundreds of spectators could see the action on stage from close range, creating an intimate actor-audience relationship (albeit some spectators would see the side or back of actors at various points in the performance). This situation can rarely be achieved using a proscenium arch. One of the best and worst examples of a proscenium arch stage is the Metropolitan Opera House in New York – 3,800 seats on six levels, all on ONE side of the stage! A sight to be seen! Both a magical and somewhat impractical experience at the same time.
I was wondering if you could add a little bit more about Proscenium Arch stages and there advantages and disadvantages.
Hi, I was wondering what are some advantages and disadvantages of a black box stage.
hello i need to find ot
WHAT IS BODY POSITIONING
SPACES IN DRAMA
EXPLANATION OF EACH SPACE
Are there any more advantages and disadvantages of thrust staging? I need three of each.
i am writing my project, and it is giving me a lot of problem, i need a help with ‘ found spaces and the challenges of aesthetic finishing
This is great. I like this because it gives you a lot of information and explains some advantages and disadvantages. Justin Cash you have done a great job.
great stuff m808
Traverse staging for theatre shows can be tricky and, in my experience anyway, is uncommon in professional theatre. Of the handful of traverse staged shows I have seen, the audience is placed on both (long) sides of a rectangle (and not at the ends), often raked (downward to the flat stage below). The scenery needs to be minimal and/or low to the ground, hanging high from above, or transparent. This is because the scenery in a traverse stage can easily block the view of the actors by the audience on the other side. There are two “fronts” to the traverse stage, actors often perform sections to one side or the other, depending on the direction given. Traverse staging is somewhat challenging, but worthwhile if not for the novelty factor, alone.
I’m doing homework for school and I was wondering what another use for a traverse stage was? (Not a fashion show?)
I have seen a piece where Traverse was used to create a debate for an election and it made the audience feel like they were being persuaded into voting for each person. I hope this has helped.
Am shibin Xavier from India.We have folklore festivals in which they uses travers for healthy art competitions like competing each other one by one. it can be usefull for other ‘two group’ competitions. For instance chessboard kind of structured play can be done in this way. Considering the fact this is a school,frame the event with a little bit fun so that the interraction will be high. Thank you