Your performance space

The first thing you have to do is identify the shape and nature of your performance space or stage. This is going to make a big difference to the way you perform.

Proscenium stage

A stage where the audience sits on one side only is called a proscenium stage (you might know this as end-on staging). The audience faces one side of the stage directly, and may sit at a lower height or in tiered seating. The frame around the stage is called the proscenium arch. This helps to define that imaginary fourth wall in realistic theatre. The area in front of the arch is the proscenium – it’s in front of the scenery, in the literal sense.

There are two other terms worth mentioning here which are the thrust stage and apron stage. A thrust stage is where the acting area in front of the proscenium arch comes forward so that some of the audience are sitting on three sides of the action of the play. An apron stage is often used as an alternative term for thrust stage but can also refer to the much smaller acting area in front of the proscenium arch in some theatres.

Proscenium stage diagram

In-the-round stage

An in-the-round stage is positioned at the centre of the audience. This means that there’s an audience around the whole stage. This type of stage creates quite an intimate atmosphere, and is good for drama that needs audience involvement. There are walkways for the performers to reach the acting area. This kind of staging means that you have to think carefully about the old adage of not turning your back on the audience. An actor will sometimes do that for effect but in theatre in the round, part of the audience is always looking at your back. Keeping every member of that audience involved requires some skilful blocking (working out the movements of each character in relation to the script). Theatre in the round can also be referred to as arena theatre.

In-the-round stage diagram

Traverse stage

A stage where the audience sits on two sides is called a traverse stage. Again, this type of stage is good for creating an intimate atmosphere as the audience are close to the action. It’s an unusual form of staging but you will often see the format used for fashion shows since it is, effectively, a catwalk.

Traverse stage diagram

Raked stage

This is when the rear of the stage is higher than the front of the stage. It helps with visibility and was common in older theatres. A raked stage can have an impact on perspective because it isn't level. This has to be considered carefully when planning the design for a production.

Raked stage diagram