Different Theater Spaces
Not every theater space is the same, and it pays to be aware of the types of spaces in which your play might be produced. Often, plays work better in some spaces than others. Keeping in mind that many theater spaces are hybrids, here are the basics:
Effectively, the actors perform with the audience sitting in front of them. Either the stage is raised above the level of the audience (for example, in many high schools) or the seats in the "house" are raked (in other words, the farther away from the stage your seat is, the higher up you get). Most theaters - everything from Broadway to high schools - are prosceniums.
Imagine a tongue thrusting into a proscenium-style audience and you have a thrust configuration. In this configuration, though this may not be true of the extreme upstage area, the actors will have audience on three sides.
The actors are in a central playing area, and the audience surrounds them on all sides. Actors may have to enter and exit through the aisles.
A black box is a performance space that is exactly what it sounds like: a black-painted square or rectangle. A true black box - that is, one with no fixed seating - is the ultimate in flexibility, because the theater can configure the audience arrangement to match the staging needs of your play, rather than staging your play around the audience.
A "touring" space isn't a kind of space at all, but if your show needs to tour - (e.g. to schools) that means it could be performed in anything from a giant proscenium auditorium to a densely packed classroom - it's a good idea to observe some common sense guidelines:
- No sets, or sets that can be installed and taken down in minutes, and transported in a deep trunk or a van.
- Props and costumes that can be packed into a large box for easy transport.
- No lighting cues beyond "lights up" (if that), and only sound cues that can be done from a boombox.
- Small cast (anything larger than four is begging for trouble).
- Forty to forty-five minutes running time (for high schools, and fewer for younger children), to fit into one class period.