Staging configuration: theatre in the round

Staging configuration: theatre in the round

Understanding Theatre in the Round

Definition and Design

  • Theatre in the round or arena theatre refers to a staging configuration where the audience surrounds the stage on all sides. The actors perform in the middle.
  • This configuration gets its name from the circular, square or octagonal shape it typically takes. It demands a 360-degree design perspective.

Advantages and Audience Connection

  • The key advantage of theatre in the round is the intimate connection it creates between performers and audience. As spectators are in close proximity to the action, their responses and reactions could sometimes influence the performance.

Actor Considerations and Performance

  • Performers need to be constantly aware of their body language and ensure that they aren’t turning their back on a portion of the audience for extensive periods. All sides of the scene taken place must be considered.
  • Blocking or positioning for actors becomes more complex, but also more natural in theatre in the round. It encourages more movement and provides an opportunity for the actors to use the whole space actively.

Set and Lighting Design

  • Traditional scenery and set design in theatre in the round can be challenging due to visibility issues. Designers often have to be more ingenious and abstract, possibly using levels or movable set pieces.
  • Lighting is also a challenge because traditional front lighting is usually impossible. Overhead lighting, floor lighting or other alternative methods may be used.

Entrances, Exits, and Audience Interaction

  • As there is no defined ‘front’ to the stage in theatre in the round, entrances and exits can be from any part of the auditorium, often through the audience. This feature can be used to incorporate the audience into the dramatic action.

Sound and Acoustics

  • Sound and acoustics require careful attention in theatre in the round due to the surrounding audience. Voices must be projected to all parts of the arena, and a balanced acoustic design is imperative.

Audience Expectation

  • Theatre in the Round can challenge traditional audience expectation, as they may not have a single focal point or a framed perspective like in proscenium theatre or other staging configurations.