Trading Spaces and Staging Plays

By Holly Mancuso, dramaturg

When most people think of a theatre, they imagine something like this:

The Paramount Theatre in St. Cloud, Minnesota

The Paramount Theatre in St. Cloud, Minnesota

There is a stage with a curtain and a specific place for the action to occur. The audience sits in fixed permanent chairs, often on a lower level than the stage. It features a proscenium arch, or the arch framing the space between the auditorium and the stage.

However, many theatres and performance spaces are set up differently. For example, the famous Globe Theatre in London, where many of Shakespeare’s plays where originally performed, had an almost full circle of seats and included a space for audience members to stand as well as sit. This allowed for multiple vantage points, and could drastically change what parts of the show you focused on.

Shakespeare's Globe, the modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre.

Shakespeare’s Globe, the modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre.

Some theatres have seats surrounding the entire performance area. This is called a “theatre-in-the-round”, or an arena theatre. This can create very intimate performances as well as offering a different perspective for each audience member.

Theatre in the RoundFor Microburst, we’re performing in the Margetts Arena Theatre. My co-dramaturg Abram wrote a very descriptive article about the Margetts last fall for the show See How They Run (which you can read here). Our show has the audience seated on the four different sides of the theatre.

A scene from the show, featuring a distinct lighting design

A scene from the show, featuring a distinct lighting design

In order to provide every member of the audience with a quality experience, director George Nelson has worked with the actors to stage each of the seven plays differently. During rehearsals we’ve all sat in various seats on all sides of the theatre to ensure that the vantage points work for every show. There will be people who see the backs of actors, but we’ve worked to make sure that actors are moving and that the main direction of the action is constantly altered. This will make sure no one feels excluded. So there are really no bad seats in the house!

Here you see the angle for one of the plays, Different But Equal, from the east side:

APY (44)And here is the same show from the south side:

APY (56)Microburst Theatre Festival starts next week. Get your tickets now!

 

 

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