So, you think you know the theatre?
Have you ever noticed how not all productions have the same type of stages? It could be the Broadway, the West End, or even the stages at our lovely Esplanade.
Whatever it is, the type of stage used in production plays a crucial part in delivering the play’s message and how it intends to make the audience feel of the performance art.
If you’ve watched the theatre in the West, you might be most familiar with the proscenium stage. Typically, one side of the stage with a background wall would be dedicated to the audience while the remaining sides would be dedicated to the performers and technicians.
Personally, the proscenium arch is one of the coolest stage types. It creates a “window” that frames the play and gives the spectator a good view. Some theatres which have a proscenium stage include the Esplanade. The theatre at the Esplanade has an adjustable proscenium arch and an audience area which compromises of four levels.
With a plethora of seating options and pricing ranges, where should you sit for your next show?
If you’re willing to splurge on the art, getting the first level of seats would be the best but most expensive. However, if your budget is tight and you narrowly missed the bundle deals or special discounts, you might want to look at the next few levels
Fret not, the view of the stage would be clear, but it would be slightly further. This might be an issue if the show is in a foreign language and you are unable to read the surtitles used in opera.
Designed to increase intimacy between the actors and the audience, the typically T-shaped stage is another avenue to breaking the fourth wall. A thrust stage is typically shaped like a semi-circle or looks like a half polygon.
Unlike the proscenium stage, the thrust stage enhances the action of the performance. One other cool fact about the thrust stage is that entrances are made most readily for performers and the utility of the backstage area is not compromised.
It is crucial that there is enough room in the backstage area as the crew and stagehands need space to keep the props, costumes, and spaces for every section of the production. It is also pivotal that the performers have easy entrances onto the stage. Missing a stage entrance or cue due to a mishap would be absolutely dreadful!
Attending a show with a thrust stage and not sure where to sit?
Being closer to the front would be your safest option. This is because everything on stage (in a thrust formation) is more subtle, from the makeup right down to the performers’ gestures.
However, if you are uncomfortable with the close proximity between you and the performers, feel free to sit slightly further away! The overall atmosphere of the show is meant to be warm and intimate, as compared to other stage-types.
You are actually posing a great challenge to the performers: There is nowhere to hide on a thrust stage.
Theatre in the Round Stage
An in-the-round stage is usually positioned at the center of the space, giving the audience a 360-degree view of the stage and the performers without any background wall. Being one of my favorite stage types, I love how easy it is to create a more natural actor and character relationship.
Contrary to its name, an in-the-round stage need not always be shaped in a circular shape. It could be a square or polygon-like shape. The scenery is often minimal and there are no obstructions of the audience’s view of the stage.
If you went to speech and drama class or were part of a drama co-curricular activity in school, you might be more familiar with in-the-round staging. Often, instructors would advise all participants to sit in a circle with space in between. This way, everyone would be able to see each other from all points of the room.
Black Box Theatre
A black box theatre consists of a black square room and a flat floor. The space is often flexible in terms of staging and also offers alternate lighting configurations. Its simplicity enables performers to manipulate it easily to heighten interaction or engagement with the audience.
This relatively recent innovation in theatre has become crucial to theatre practitioners and performers who often need a blank “canvas” during their creative process. If you are familiar with local news, you might have heard about the closure of spaces for some theatre companies. Not having a regular rehearsal room or a black box is every theatre practitioner’s worst fear.
In most black box theatres, the floor of the stage is the same level as the first row of seats for the audience. Personally, the view is best if you choose to sit in the middle or center row of the audience section. However, if you prefer being closer to the performers, you might want to sit closer to the front row.
Some theatres leave the first row empty out of respect for the superstition that there are spirits or ghosts who may be present. This was a practice that my Drama club followed during a particular showcase during the Seventh Month of the Chinese calendar.
This non-traditional space is unlike any other type of staging. While engaging in this form of theatre is unconventional, there are many reasons why a director may choose to do a site-specific performance rather than a conventional one in an actual theatre.
The director may want to shed some light on the history of the place, how the atmosphere enhances the performance or the experiences of that particular location.
When watching a site-specific performance, you might want to be closer to the performers as they may not have microphones on them. Being closer also allows you to observe their physicality and gestures, which enhances the audience’s relationship with the performers.
Hope you enjoy the information on the wide range of theatre.