Theatre Spaces

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.

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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.

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Justin Cash
Justin Cash is an experienced high school drama teacher in Melbourne, Australia. He is passionate about drama education and blogging. Justin firmly believes drama is the most valuable subject a young person can study at school and that drama teaching is the best job in the world!

8 comments on “Theatre Spaces

  1. Hi there!
    I’m doing homework for school and I was wondering what another use for a traverse stage was? (Not a fashion show?)
    Thanks 🙂

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. great stuff m808

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. Are there any more advantages and disadvantages of thrust staging? I need three of each.

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