Theatre stages have been in existence since ancient times, when outdoor performance were held at the famous Greek amphitheatres. Today, many types of stages exist around the world for drama, musicals, dance and operas as well as for popular and classical concerts. The proscenium arch was the most common stage in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. But other types of stages developed, as well, including the alley, thrust and theatre in the round.
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Proscenium theatres (called "pros" in theatre speak) have an arch that frames the space on the stage where the performance is given, often delineated by a curtain. The audience sits facing the front of the stage. Left and rightwings, where actors wait to appear and props are stored, are hidden by the curtains and/or arch. Stages can be small or several stories. Any theatre today where the audience sits facing the stage tends to be called proscenium.
In the alley type of stage, also known as traverse or corridor, audiences sit on either side of a long stage. The stage is much like a catwalk and used more for fashion shows than for plays. Some alley stages have one end facing an audience. Another type is wider at each end, creating more room for actors and scenery. Actors need to project voices so that audiences behind their backs will hear them. Scenery can't block views from either side.
A thrust stage extends out to the audience on three sides. The actors enter and exit at the back of the stage but at times through audience aisles. The thrust stage creates greater intimacy with the audience than does the proscenium theatre. Set designers, however, must see that scenery and props don't block stage views from any of the three sections of audience. A stage left desk, for example, could block the view of stage right action.
Theatre in the Round
In the theatre in the round, or the arena theatre, the audience is seated around the entire stage, which can be round, triangular or square. Margo Jones, a pioneering director and producer, established the first professional one in Dallas in 1957. Actors enter the stage from beneath it or from audience aisles. The stage is often level with the audience or lower. Common in ancient Greece and Rome, the arena stage was not widely used again until the later 20th century.
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