There are many things to consider when taking a piece of drama from page to stage, or performing a scene you’ve devised yourself. Choices you make about the way to play the scene are called the interpretation. ‘Staging’ doesn’t just mean the set or stage itself; it’s everything you do onstage to bring the drama to life.
While the relationships onstage between characters are important, so is the relationship and interaction between actors and audience. Even if your work is naturalistic and the audience are observers of the action, their inclusion is fundamental to the success of your work. Without an audience there’s no theatre.
The fourth wall is like an invisible screen between actors and audience. Imagine the stage as a box with one side open where the audience sit. Work where the audience are passive observers is said to keep the fourth wall intact. There’s no direct contact between actors and audience.
In work where the audience are directly addressed or clear eye contact is made between actors and audience, the fourth wall is broken. The audience are clearly included in the drama and are less removed from events onstage.
Your choice of whether or not to have a fourth wall in your work will influence the spatial relationships between audience and actors and the type of stage you choose. Look at Using the Space to learn more about the different types of stages you can use.